8.4 Rewriting Your PhD Thesis
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One of the most tedious - and vital – elements of compiling a thesis is re-writing. Every time you write anything, you will need to show it to your supervisor to get his advice and feedback and probably re-write!
After he/she has had a look at it, it is a good idea to arrange a meeting so that you can talk about what suggestions he/she has made and how you might implement them. Advice such as this is invaluable as you are able to discuss your work with someone who knows precisely what you are trying to do.
After you have seen your supervisor, you may find that additional research will be needed so it is ‘back to the books’ again, but this time looking for specific ideas that can help you to rewrite your thesis more effectively along the lines suggested by your supervisor.
When you rewrite, you should bear the following n mind:
- What changes am I making to my thesis?
- Why am I making them?
- How do I think these changes will improve my thesis?
- What additional research will I need to do to supplement these changes?
- How will the changes affect the structure of the thesis?
- What is the best way to implement the changes whilst maintaining cohesion?
As before, applying questions such as this to your work can make you more clearly directed in your approach. Let’s look at each of them in turn:
What changes am I making to my thesis?
Take a close look at the changes that you have decided to make and think about precisely what you intend to do.
As you are writing your plan for your changes consider precisely the nature of the changes and how they fit into the overall scheme.
If, for example, your supervisor has suggested that you need to sharpen your argument, think about how the evidentiary support will contribute to that.
You might want to go back and look at how you used a particular piece of evidence before and try to see how you need to adapt and/or change it to accommodate your new approach.
Changes such as this are important because they help maintain the cohesiveness of your central argument even when you alter specific points during the process of the rewriting of your thesis.
Why am I making them?
This is very important because you should never make changes simply because someone else has suggested them.
In order for the changes to be really effective you must know precisely why your supervisor has suggested that you make them so discuss the changes thoroughly with him or her in your meeting before you begin to rewrite – especially if you disagree with the changes: whilst it is not productive to be deliberately stubborn, it is your thesis.
Therefore, you should be sure that changes you make will improve your thesis before you make them.
How do I think these changes will improve my thesis?
In many ways this is supplementary to the first question. You must be convinced that your changes are for the benefit of the thesis as a whole before you make them because otherwise simply by changing for the sake of it you could destroy the whole fabric of your argument.
Ensure that you know exactly what to do with the other material in the chapter where you are making these changes, too, and ask yourself how you will incorporate these (see below) as well as what effect the rewrites will have (see below).
You must be convinced that changes suggested to you – or suggested by further reading that you have done – will add something to the thesis before incorporating them.
On most occasions, you will be in no doubt that changes will make a significant difference but be certain.
What additional research will I need to do to supplement these changes?
You will certainly need to undertake some additional research to make changes (unless they are simply structural) because all points in your argument throughout your thesis need to be supplement by evidentiary support.
It is possible that your supervisor might have suggested the changes and therefore you will be aware of the source. Most of the changes suggested by supervisors are also very generously given to you with the actual references from which they came, too, so much of the work will have been done for you.
However, you will still need to analyse the sources and ensure that you have included subliminal nuances in the evidence to support the new material in your thesis. if you have detected the evidence yourself, then you will also have to do this work but you will be aware of the source - remember to add any new sources you use to your bibliography in the correct referencing style, as before (for further information, see the section in this guide on creating your bibliography).
How will the changes affect the structure of the thesis?
Again, this has partly been addressed already but you need also to consider the effect on the thesis on as a whole when you make changes.
Remember, that above all you need to maintain the strength of the central argument in your thesis, so if you believe that the changes you are thinking of making are not going to be beneficial and might even disturb the overall structure then perhaps you should think about discussing this further with your supervisor.
However, it is unlikely that your supervisor will suggest disruptive changes as he or she is as cognisant as yourself of the need to maintain cohesion in your thesis.
Therefore, you will probably need to give some thought to how to incorporate changes without disrupting the structure rather than dismissing them.
There are many ways of doing this including:
- Incorporating the new work into existing work by extending an original point.
- Replacing an original point with a new one that does the same job with additional benefits and substantiating, analysed evidence.
- Altering the structure so that the new work or rewriting maintains cohesion.
- Prioritising differently so that the structure is retained but given a different order, this can be as simple as re-ordering paragraphs.
- Making your evidentiary support the forefront of the rewriting, this will help sharpen the connection between the evidence and the argument, too.
What is the best way to implement the changes whilst maintaining cohesion?
Of the various methods outlined above, the best way to incorporate any changes caused or initiated by rewriting is probably, in abstract, a combination of reordering the existing structure and giving priority to evidentiary support and analysis. However, it is very important that you adapt any suggestions made within this guide to your own particular subject area and methodology. Ultimately, you must continually remind yourself that this original work is yours and it must stay so.
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