PhD dissertation writing: theoretical foundations for your approach

When working on the process of PhD dissertation writing, some students find the theoretical foundations area to be the most challenging of the entire project. The theoretical foundations in a PhD dissertation guides a student’s research while also determining what variables need to be measured and what statistical correlations and relationships should be looked for.

There are two important parts of researching your PhD dissertation – observation as well as theory. The theory is what the researcher determines is the answer to the question or concern that their project is addressing or bringing to light within the field.

Basically, the theory of is what will take the researcher from the beginning of their PhD dissertation project all the way to its conclusion. Because of this, it is critical that the theoretical foundation of each project be clear and logical. Bad theory will equate to a bad project – and likely a bad grade, or worse, failure to complete the program and graduate.

How to Create a Strong Theoretical Foundation

  1. Examine the topic and determine what the research problem that you are trying to answer or provide more direction for.
  2. Using an outline or cluster, collect your thoughts on what factors might contribute to your research.
  3. Research and review the data and projects currently available on the subject. Keep track of the current answers to your established issue or problem, if there are any.
  4. Consider relevance of your project to others that have been done.

Studying each theory, and applying some to see if they fit, is an important process to ensure the rest of your project will run smoothly. Before you decide which theoretical foundation to rely on, make sure you research those that have been used successfully. Research all theories carefully. Make sure that those you consider will work for your project – and make sense to readers as applicable to the overall goal.

Your theoretical foundation must take you from start to finish – and also help you find the answers that will benefit your research, as well as the department and field as a whole. It is very easy to make mistakes during this process – and since it is so important to your overall research and end product, it is wise to ask for help. If you are unsure, or would like clarification, it is always a good idea to discuss your questions and concerns with your Department advisor.


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