Reviewed by: Sharon Spratt (University of Ulster)
Initially, upon reading the title, I thought that this book would be entirely about the thesis writing stage of the PhD process. However, I think that Professor Brewer’s book: ‘Your PhD Thesis: How to plan, draft, revise and edit your thesis’ is more a book of two halves.
The first six chapters concentrate around the idea of providing a prospective student with as much information as possible to help them decide on a research idea and then refine that idea in order to get it accepted as a feasible doctoral project. This includes a detailed chapter on the various types of research, the essential need to get the research question right and a reality check on project feasibility. Chapter five, a guide to writing a research proposal, is equally as useful to a student preparing to write-up by serving as a succinct thesis plan. This section ends on a chapter dedicated to the appropriate use of your time through adequate planning in order to finish your PhD up on time. The first half of this book should be essential reading prior to commencing a PhD as it would help ease the process of decision making and prevent costly mistakes.
The second half of the book consists of three chapters on data organisation, writing of the thesis and presentation styling. The chapter on writing, divides the thesis into the various sections and gives advice on how to tackle these including tips on where, when and how to write. This is supplemented by the subsequent chapter which focuses on the style of presentation of the thesis and the ever important issues surrounding spelling, punctuation and grammar.
Something which is very impressive about the book is the constant reference to the relevant literature. The author refers to other literature that he finds important throughout the body of the text which results in an eclectic reference list. Moreover, he provides a comprehensive further reading list, useful reference books and other sources and website details at the end of the book.
And that is not where the help ends. Not only does each chapter function as a manual on that specific topic but each ends with a tutorial. Here, there are progress questions, discussion points, practical assignments and study tips. These activities work as a review of the topic and also really make the reader understand it, smoothing the progression into the next area.
The only issue I have with this book is one of jealousy, that I didn’t have this to hand the entire way through my PhD. However, having said that, the final chapters will be indispensible to me in the coming months. Even nearing the end of the road, this book helps to clarify and put into perspective one’s own thesis.
Professor Brewer has a way of writing which is informative and motivating at the same time. His straight forward and detailed take on each topic aids the reader in understanding the content and applying its advice.
For someone supervising a PhD, this book is useful; for someone writing a thesis, this book will facilitate clarity; for someone beginning their PhD, this book is invaluable and for anyone thinking of undertaking a PhD, this book is essential.