The Journey To The Degree Of Reasoning: Practical Notes On PhD Research

PhD research can be a very daunting task for students. Some students have quite an experience with research and have even published at their Maters level. These notes is intended for students with no experience, little experience with research and can be of help to adept researchers as well. These notes stem from my experience with my PhD research Journey. The notes discusses the research process, relevance of background information, problem definition stage as a basis for a good research, reviewing literature, citation, deciding on respondents, and preliminary data collection plan.

The Research Process

The research process is systematic steps of developing a research paper. As the research progresses the research plan would be revised and with more information,Guest Posting sometimes changing the initial topic altogether. The initial plan for the research is adjusted due to certain realization on issues concerning the broad area of your topic, methodology, and data collection techniques.

The research process is a journey that starts by identifying a problem, reviewing literature to further understand the problem and subsequently drawing the focal theory and the background theory from the review. The causal issues are identified as well that is the identification of the research variables.

Once this is done, the research plan on the methodology that would best resolve the issues identified. Instruments are designed to collect data. These instrument refined by doing a pilot test to ensure that the questions asked are well framed and ambiguity is out thus the right data would be collected. Refined questionnaire are then given to experts in the field to solicit their views on questions in the data collection instruments. The researcher would have to apply skills in the process of data collection. The data is then analyzed. Findings are drawn to help solve the problem.

The relevance of Background Information

It is important to do investigation on the organization because:

Background information gives the stated research problem its relevance and demonstrates the researchers understanding of the problem and the reliance of research analysis to be done.

Serve as sources of secondary data to the research. Which can help in answering questions you intend to add in your questionnaire?

Background information can give the researcher the historical information concerning the organization.

Background information would help the researcher do his research in context that is considering the history and culture or the organization.

Background information of organization is critical when the research design is a case study. For instance, if the research is being conducted for literal replication, then background of organization should be checked for similar situations

Background information would help the researcher indentify who should be asked which kind of questions.

The Problem Definition

I would begin this discussion with a statement from Charles Kettering who stated that “a Problem well stated is a problem half-solved”. The problem definition stage is where brain storming is done; various perspective of the problem has to be considered. Considering various perspective help give focus to the research thereby setting the pathway for the right solution. The problem definition stage has to be carefully done to be able to curve out the appropriate research questions. Without the appropriate research definition, the research objectives which the problem solution stage seeks to achieve would not be realized.

The definition of a problem in any societal context that is not done well for instance conducting a research to solve a real life problem. A wrong problem definition would results in a solution that is not able to solve the problem envisaged. This would result in waste of recourses in a fruitless research journey and more devastating would be the hopes dashed of the people who are so much expectant. Subsequently there would be no confidence the solution. If the research was a contracted research then there would be lost of credibility in the solution. Usually the beneficial group would not say they problem is wrong, they would always point out that the solutions is wrong. In summary, the credibility of the problem solving stage hinges on the appropriateness of the problem definition stage.

It is imperative for one to get hung up on the problem definition though the broad problem area is well known is because:

The research needs to be given a focus. The problem definition steps involved in defining the problem is time consuming and thus the researcher need to be patient to painstaking go through the processes to get the problem well defined.

Literature in the broad area is reviewed, to get perspective of various schools of thought in the problem area. The semantics in the area would have to be understood and operational definition read thoroughly. Both the empirical and theoretical perspective of the problem would have to be investigated to narrow the problem.

The researcher would have to be able to justify his area of studies. With the broad area, it would be difficult to justify the research study. Besides the underpinning theories would have to be defined. It would be difficult to find specific theories authoritatively to build the research on in a case where the topic is so broad.

The research would have to add to knowledge in the research area. Most research work in literature is focused on specific issues. Therefore one of the main objectives of conducting research would be defeated. Thus it is very necessary to hung up on the problem definition.

“Knowing does not understand. There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it.” (Charles Kettering). In conclusion Kettering statement on knowing and understanding well applies to reasons why a researcher cannot go ahead with research though the broad area is known.

Selection of Relevant Literature Review

Researchers conduct literature review to establish the theoretical framework of the research interest area, understanding the definition of key concepts pertaining to their topic, semantics in relation to the field of interest and also help establish research topic. A survey done in the process of thesis shows to your supervisor and examination board how vast you have read and the depth of knowledge you have in the area. The information from the literature would help the researcher analyze study designs and find the appropriate study design for the research problem at hand.

In a quantitative study, a literature would indicate the type of variables, that is dependent and independent variables. The measurements and items of these variables can also be uncovered. Literature survey in a quantitative research is to uncover the structure of questionnaire design which can be taken from more than on literature. In qualitative review, is also done for the purpose of comparing findings from a research conducted and the perspective from literature. Further a review is also done for purpose of comparing results in the case of mixed method using triangulation results in a theory or framework that is a deviation from what is in literature review.

The researcher would know which literature should be given prominence in his survey by selecting from relevant literature based on the following criteria:

The year of publication of the article, the number of citations etc. The researcher is expected to do his research in the light of current literature

The quality of the journal where the article is published

Appraising the information by way of analyzing the theory , the approach, the method of each literature

The geographical area of the research in the certain research work the location can influence findings

Literature based on the same paradigm, though this not general choice it depends of what results is being sought in the research

The researcher has to draw a strategy for inclusive and exclusive strategy in a table based on design, data collection strategies etc.


Appropriate citation in research is import because it shows the reader of your report who’s ideas and concepts you have added to your report. It furthers shows how long the source of those ideas has been published. This connotes to the reader how relevant the information is to your research in situations where causal factors found in the research can be influence with time. Appropriate citation is also important because it shows the knowledge building trend in academic research. How knowledge evolved and the various perspectives on the same ideas. Finally appropriate citation is important because it absolve the researcher from the consequences of plagiarism.

A researcher who uses sources and does not credit to the sources has bridge the academic guideline and therefore has behaved dishonestly. The following are the consequences of academic dishonesty.

If the researcher obtained doctorate degree with the research work his degree would be revoked
The researcher who was not given the credit can file a legal suit against the dishonesty
The dishonest researcher in question would have a difficult task finding a journal to publish his work
The career of the researcher would be affected in the situation where he is in the academia
In some cases the dishonest researcher can be imprisoned.

Deciding on respondents selection or Sample selection

Notwithstanding the appropriate scientific methods for selecting samples, it is very crucial for a researcher to always find information on structural and job characteristics from respondents. The reasons are as follows:

Culture in many organizations differs. The culture of that organization may be such that it promotes the issues being researched about or otherwise. For instance an interviewee who is working in such an environment would be very reluctant to give out information. These conditions vary across the organizations. Therefore it is imperative for the researcher to know the prevailing structure so that if the research bothers on generalization, this can be done without bias.
Culture in an organization can also affect perception of individuals which is a great influence the information being sought.
In the case of job characteristics, let us consider a staff at the managerial level and non management level who are asked a question on policy enforcement. Certainly the reasons the researcher would receive from the non management member would be different from that of the management member. There the researcher would have to repot the findings based on the perspective of the two categories of staff members.

Preliminary Data Collection plans

The preliminary data collection methods include arranging for logistic, preparing the training materials and questionnaire, select and train assistance for the field work, instrument is chosen, a pilot study is conducted, get research assistance, making arrangement on how questionnaires would be returned, and ethical considerations. Arranging for logistics comprise of having a permanent place to serve as an office, the number of personnel to include is decided on, a place of lodging arranged in situation where cases are out of station. The questionnaire are pretested to identify problems by allowing respondents similar to the survey respondents to answerers the questions. The research assistants are then trained to understand the objectives of the research, skills to enable them collect quality data.

A pilot study is conducted to take not of usual events which the research should look out for so that the quality of data is not compromised. Additionally the researcher would have to strategies how the data sought can be collected without bridging any ethical considerations either of the individual respondents or the organization of which the information is sought. The actual survey can then be conducted.


The actual data collection would require skills to enable the exact intended data to be collected. Many at times students do not have knowledge on how to use the data analysis software during the actual data collection process. It is always advisable to learn how to use the software you intend to use for the analysis before the actual data collection.

It is not a pre-requisite to be a professional but at least the basics of the software should be known or learnt. As the analysis progresses, you can ask for help. Most at times students give out the analysis work to professionals and are not involved directly. This would show during your defense. Thus to be on the safer side always be involved in the analysis and ask for help when you are not conversant with some technique.

In preparing the notes the following were the guiding Literature:


Levy, Y., & Ellis, T. J. (2006). A systems approach to conduct an effective literature review in support of information systems research. Informing Science: International Journal of an Emerging Transdiscipline, 9(1), 181-212.

Tsalikis, J., & Fritzsche, D. J. (1989). Business ethics: A literature review with a focus on marketing ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 8(9), 695-743.

Hanacek, J. (2010). Phases of research process. Available at [Accessed on 20/5/2014]

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