The following information is intended to help and guide you in the doctoral assessment procedure.
Important factors to remember
Clarify your focus and purpose
What are you going to research – what topic?
What research questions?
Explain the significance of the research
Explain why it is significant to you and to your discipline (area/field/ profession) and perhaps even more widely.
Why did this topic interest you?
Why is it worth doing?
What is it likely to contribute, accomplish, enable?
Identify and critique relevant literature, create a gap for your research
What has been done so far?
What is limited or problematic about this?
What still needs doing, or what needs doing differently?
How does your work relate to, draw on, differ from existing work?
Explain the theoretical underpinnings or approaches
What theoretical frameworks will you draw on and why?
Justify your research methods
Exactly how are you going to go about doing your research?
Why are you going to do it this particular way instead of some other way?
How will you collect your ‘data’?
How will you analyse it? For example, if you are interviewing people… who? how many? how will you find them? what selection criteria will you use? how will you analyse the interview data?
Account for ethical aspects
What ethical issues, if any, do you need to consider? What will you do about these?
Identify key issues or directions
What issues do you expect to arise?
What is your ‘hypotheses?
What do you expect to find, argue, create?
Identify timeline and resource list
What exactly will you do, and when?
How will you make sure that you will be able to finish on time?
What resources will you require of your Faculty?
Also think about what YOU want to get out of doing the doctoral assessment and how can you use it to help YOU progress in your work?
Common pitfalls - doctoral assessment
Find out about some of the common pitfalls with doctoral assessment, and how to avoid them:
Boring your listeners by reading aloud a written text
- Beforehand, note down the time that each new section of your talk should commence and decide what to leave out if you find that you’re running over time
- Maintain eye contact with your audience (across the room)
- Project your voice
- Use notes, note cards, highlighted text, overhead transparencies (OHTs), or PowerPoint slides
Using visual aids in ways that do not 'aid'
- Be careful that you don’t include too much text on each OHT or PowerPoint slide
- Be sure to use a large and readable font size
- When discussing an OHT or PowerPoint slide, don’t turn your back to the audience (point down to the slide, not back up at the screen)
- Order all your or PowerPoint slides so that you have clear idea of the stages that you need to go through
Confusing your audience
Introduce your talk, begin by sharing the main headings with your audience so they know what to expect as they listen
Beforehand, practise your talk and time it, so that you don’t run out of time at the end and have to conclude hastily or leave out something important
Talking at length about either the literature, or your study – but not connecting the two
Be careful that you don’t talk at length about literature or theory, but without making it clear how this pertains to your particular study, why this literature or theory is important
Conversely, be careful that you don’t talk at length about your study, but without contextualising it in relation to existing work
Not being sufficiently precise, critical or theoretical
Be careful that you don’t use key terms without defining them, or without demonstrating that you are aware they are defined in various ways in the literature, but specifying how you are using them in your study, or why you are using these particular terms rather than others
Make sure your work is not merely descriptive, but also analytical and critical, by discussing what is limited, inadequate or problematic about existing work
Even if your work is ‘practice-based’, make sure that you clearly articulate a theoretical perspective
Not explaining or justifying your research methods in sufficient detail
Not enough detail re. your research methods – e.g. how are you going to collect data, from whom, how many, where will you find research participants, etc.
Not giving enough information
Make sure you address key questions etc. :
- When will you do what, to ensure that you submit on time?
- Who will it interest and why?
- How will you go about it, and why these choices?
- Why is your research needed?
- What will you be investigating?
Dealing with audience questions
Beforehand, predict likely questions and practise answering them
During, show that you understand the question
Clarify the asker’s intention – will you answer the question on the spot or think about it later?
Adapted from Nelson, C & San Miguel, C 2002, Preparing for your doctoral assessment, ELSSA Centre, UTS.