Useful references



Here is an annotated list of my favourite and most useful books for PhD thesis writing. All are recommended by me. I would be interested to know the views of other readers.

Booth, W., Colomb, G. & Williams, J., (1995), The Craft of Research, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

A very useful book for the early stages of PhD writing in which research questions are still being developed and refined and the ‘big question’ may not have been identified. The authors emphasize the importance of examining assumptions which underlie claims as well as the need to support claims with different types of evidence. There are also useful sections on writing introductions and conclusions.

Brewer, R. (2007), Your PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, revise and Edit Your Thesis, Abergele: Studymates/Baskerville Press

A practical guide with good chapters on ‘Feasibility, ‘Types of Research’ and ‘The Research Question’. However, there is only one short chapter which deals with the writing process itself.

Dunleavy, P. (2003), Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan

A very useful and comprehensive guide to planning, structuring, writing and editing a PhD thesis.  The chapters which focus on planning and organization are particularly strong. There are also sections on ‘writing clearly’, referencing, developing the argumentation throughout the whole text and the final stages of writing-up and editing.

Throughout the author emphasizes the importance of managing the reader’s expectations: it is suggested that this is the key to successful academic writing.

Dunleavy, P. (1986), Studying for a Degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan

Useful for one very good chapter which gives advice on how to unpack and explore key concepts using lateral thinking techniques.

Finn, J. (2005), Getting a PhD, London: Routledge

The book is subtitled ‘an action plan to help manage your research, your supervisor and your project’. Very useful advice on planning every stage of the research cycle.

Gray, D. (2009), Doing Research in the Real World

A very useful and practical guide to each stage of a PhD research project. Good chapters on ‘ Searching, Reviewing & Using the Literature’ and a range of different research methods.

Murray, R. (2003), How to survive your Viva, Maidenhead: Open University Press

A practical guide which gives help on how to prepare for the viva, which type of questions to anticipate and how to deal with them effectively

Thomas, D. (2016), The PhD Writing Handbook, Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan

Publisher’s cover notes: Writing is vitally important at every stage of the PhD research journey, and this text will help you to develop the skills you need to succeed at each step. It will show you how to develop a research topic and explore key concepts through writing, how to build a structured chapter framework, and how to write clearly, coherently and stylishly

Williams, J. (1995), Style: Towards Clarity and Grace, Chicago: University of Chicago Press

The author examines the writing process and seeks to establish principles of clarity and coherence through the examination of short sample texts.  The principles themselves provide a very useful guide to achieving a successful balance between clarity and academic style requirements. The sample texts provide a clear warning of the consequences of sacrificing clarity or coherence to considerations of style.

Wisker, G. (2001), The Postgraduate Research Handbook, Houndmills: Palgrave

A useful guide to all aspects of conducting research.  The advice given is comprehensive but tends to be rather general since so much ground is covered.

Wolcott, H. (1990), Writing up Qualitative Research, Newbury Park CA: Sage

A personal account of how to be a successful writer in the Humanities or Social Sciences. Includes useful sections on planning writing, ‘writing as thinking’, where to begin, describing research methods, description vs interpretation, research as ‘problem setting’ rather than ‘problem solving’, deciding what to exclude, writing the 1st draft.

Zerubavel, E. (1999), The Clockwork Muse, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press

Subtitled ‘a practical guide to writing theses, dissertations and books’. The author gives very useful advice on writing schedules and daily routines and seeks to destroy the myth of writing as a spontaneous process depending on moments of inspiration to achieve success