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How to plan and write Ph.D. Thesis

Ph.D. Thesis- How to Proceed

Re-search! Going by the break up of the word research, it means searching again. The dictionary meaning of research is-investigation undertaken in order to discover new facts, get additional information. When these information or new facts that is gathered after study is put forward as a theory, supported by arguments, it is thesis.

To undertake research work and write a thesis, passion for the subject and an analytical mind is essential.

phdA good research student is one who has a genuine interest in the subject. There are many Ph.D. students, but very few genuine ones. For most, PhD degree is another essential addition to their bio-data. This is very unfortunate; a waste of resources and disrespect for the degree. PhD thesis should be a labor of love.

Selecting a subject/topic

Ideally, the selected topic should be one for which the student feels that he wants to go deep and know more about it. Often during our regular college/university studies, certain topics or questions keep recurring. The ‘whys’ of the subject keep coming to the mind again and again, seeking answers. Such a topic is ideal for research, because the student is naturally inquisitive about it. This inquisitiveness will motivate him/her to go deeper into the subject.

The more passionately one feels for the subject, the more intriguing his work will be.

If you are uncertain about which topic to take up, then a topic of the guide’s choice can be taken up. The guide can help in selecting a topic according to the students’ academic specializations and interest. In this case, the student may find himself lost (‘Don’t know what to do’ situation’) initially. But with guide’s help, as he proceeds in his work and begins to understand the importance of the topic, he too will develop interest in it.

While preparing the synopsis (which has to be presented for approval of the Research Degree Committee), the student will know, whether he is comfortable with the topic or not. If yes, then only he should proceed with the research.

Writing the Synopsis

When you decide on the topic, you already have a certain broad picture of it, i.e., why this particular topic, what you think about it, what you have studied in the past, and what possible outcome of the research may be. These basically form the synopsis.

The synopsis should contain a short introduction, literature review and hypothesis.

Some research is required for preparing the synopsis too. You have to go through the works/studies that have already been done on the subject. Then only you can define why you need to take up the subject for research. What lacked in the previous studies and what new facts or questions you intend to probe. Once the Research Degree Committee approves the Synopsis, then the actual work begins.

How to proceed

  • Read, read and read. The more you read, the more you will understand the technicalities of the subject. Read newspapers, journals, magazines, search Internet sites on the subject. Cut and keep whatever related material you find in the newspapers and magazines. Go through journals regularly. Note down all relevant material.
  • In the beginning it is better to read a few basic books on the subject to clearly understand the fundamentals and develop a general understanding of the topic. This will form the base for research and also help in understanding the articles and research papers in newspapers and journals.
  • Newspapers (preferably three to four) should be gone through daily, as they provide the most current figures and trends, along with the analysis of the same.
  • Research papers in journals (national and international) are mostly analytical and have lots of technical terms. It may be difficult to comprehend at first. But do not give up. Read again and again the same paper and also keep reading new ones.
  • Bring out the old journals too from the library. As you read keep on taking notes even if you don’t understand at first. You can go through the notes any time and any number of times.
  • As you read, your own understanding and knowledge of the topic will broaden. Taking clue from this knowledge, original ideas start forming in the mind. Note down all such ideas and keep pondering on them, trying to find the cause and solutions.

Writing Introduction

Introduction chapter is mainly about what the topic is about. What has been in the past and what is the current situation? At the end of the chapter, explain why further research is required on the topic.

Literature Review

In the literature review section, the works that have already been done by previous researchers on your topic has to be given. The essence of the research papers on the topic, which you have studied, has to be given in brief, along with their respective authors and name and date of the journals. So whatever notes you take down do not forget to note the name, date and page number of the journal and the author’s name. Mainly journals should be included in this section. Review of really good books can also be considered.

Ideally, the literature review should be done foremost, because the readings form the base for research. It sets the tempo for the study.

The Practical Part-Questionnaire

Once the picture is clear in your mind, regarding what you want in the study, prepare the questionnaire for survey/experiment. The questionnaire should not be lengthy. Questions should be short, to the point and easy to understand.

  • In social science, personal interviews are very helpful. Many crucial unknown facts are revealed during such interviews. Those who cannot be contacted personally can be sent questionnaire through post. (Remember to acknowledge those who respond to the questionnaire. This goodwill gesture will help future research students who may also need information from the same institution or people for their research work.)
  • Many types of data are available in government publications like census report, Economic report etc. Some non-government publications are also there. Private social organizations can also provide a list of members, out of which a sample can be obtained. For example, if the subject is exports, the district or state Export-Import association can be contacted.
  • Such associations’ publications can provide the desired information. They can also provide the name, address and other details of member exporters and importers.
  • Every college/university library has a thesis section, where all previous thesis works are kept. Go through them. These can guide you about how to form chapters, questionnaires etc.
  • It is important to keep multiple photocopies of PhD registration and a reference letter from the guide and institute head. This has to be shown to everyone you contact for survey or go to any library (other than the institute’s library, where you are registered) that is recommended by the guide.


Analysis part is the heart of the thesis work. The methodology applied in research has to be explained in detail in this chapter. After explaining the methodology, give the facts/results gathered from the survey, experiments etc.


This is the result of the analysis. Result and its interpretation; what you have found from the study; do the results support your hypothesis; does it deviate from previous studies? The cause or logic behind every finding should be elaborately explained.


Suggestions/remedies can be given as part of the concluding chapter or it can also be made as a full chapter.

Introduction, literature review, analysis and conclusion; these are the major contents of a thesis, to be worked on.

Thesis guide is certainly always there to help. But guide should not be the one always pushing the student to work. It should be the other way round. The student should keep his teacher busy with queries, corrections etc.

Any teacher will be happy to take out time to help a hard working, genuine student. During research, a stage is bound to come, when one feels as if he/she is in the middle of the sea. But perseverance never goes in vain. Genuine research is also a way of serving the country and humanity.


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5 Responses

  1. my phd topic is dhamma policy of ashoka &i want to know that how i write a good synopsis of this topic.please you help me.

    • Hi Neelu!There are two things which will guide your synopsis. First is, when you opted for this topic, you must be having some idea about it like the basics of the Ashoka’s dharma policy. A brief history and basics will form the intro part. The hypothesis is the main part which examiners see. They will like to know what attracted you to this topic and how will your research benefit the society and future. So you will have to carefully craft this part. You can write about the relevance of Ashoka’s policies in the contemporary world.
      Second is, prepare the literature review first. As you read about the topic you start getting a picture of what and how you want t proceed. These readings will help you greatly in preparing the synopsis. Keep the synopsis sharp and short.
      All the best.

  2. Thanks Anita, for sharing such a nice information for Phd aspirants..its a great help for them…

  3. Thanks Anita..the content was precise and useful

  4. a very practical guide for PhD aspirants, thanks for sharing it Anita.