If you are considering doing a Ph.D. or other doctorate level course, be aware this is very different than the other courses you have previously done.

If you have completed a Masters degree you will have completed studies to courses advance your subject knowledge, the purpose of a PhD is for you to contribute entirely new knowledge to your field. Unlike most Masters courses (or all undergraduate programmes), a PhD is a pure research degree.

A Ph.D. requires a great deal of dedication and hard work over a much longer period of time. While there are difference between different universities, in most cases the only taught courses you will be required to complete are how to do academic research, collect data, present findings, and, most importantly, how to write and publish your research paper or dissertation.

A master’s degree is designed to advance your subject knowledge, the purpose of a PhD is for you to contribute entirely new knowledge to your field. In PhD studies it is essential to make an original contribution to the sum of knowledge in your field, however small that contribution is; something someone else could use or build on in the future. You must become “the world’s leading expert” in the one very specific topic of your thesis, and be able to defend your ideas in front of senior academics with knowledge in the same field; your depth of knowledge must be at their level.

A PhD moves through a series of stages. A typical PhD normally involves:

  • Carrying out a literature review (a survey of current scholarship in your field).
  • Conducting original research and collecting your results.
  • Producing a thesis that presents your conclusions.
  • Writing up your thesis and submitting it as a dissertation.
  • Defending your thesis in an oral viva voce exam.

These stages vary a little between subjects and universities, but they tend to fall into the same sequence over the three years of a typical full-time PhD.

Your university will not provide you with a topic to study, therefore it is vital that you consider carefully beforehand what you decide to choose as a topic of your research. We have prepared a short list of things to take into consideration before you apply to a school for a doctorate programme.

Choosing a topic:

As we have just stated you must be the expert in one very specific topic, this means you must have an idea for your area of research that is very specific and narrow. Selecting a topic for your PhD is undoubtedly the most important part of the process of your thesis. It is impossible to proceed with your work until the focus of your thesis is known.

Some important steps, according to leading researchers are:

Study your passion. Start with a subject you’re passionate about and then look into the existing research conducted to help determine the next logical step. You’ll be spending at least a year on a dissertation (or any large research project), so it has to be compelling enough to keep your attention.

Flexibility. Rather than looking for one perfect idea, it is better to consider several ideas. In the initial stages, you should be open to the craziest notions. Just start with one and consider multiple variations. Think of as many different new topics as you can. Even if many of them won’t be useful, in the end, they will bring you closer to the idea.

Research. Before deciding and start working on the research topic, you should spend some time in advance to find out if what seems like a good idea is the right one. Make sure nobody else has already completed similar research. Try to bring arguments supporting the importance of your research. Test potential ideas to see if they are possible. Consider access to needed resources and information.

Focus. Keep your topic to the point. Most PhD students appear to start their PhDs with over-ambitious projects. The key is to ensure that the big topic can be resumed into one central research question.

Testing. Through testing, you can be sure that your main research question will change form. Be as flexible as you can. Every good researcher should be open and adapt to new evidence. The point of your thesis is to find the answers, even if they are uncomfortable.

Find available data. Use a previously conducted study to capture comparative data and develop good working relationships with the people who are in charge of that data. You may also need a written legal agreement—so sort through those details first.

Read everything you can on the subject. Go outside of your required class readings and you might just run across something that helps you develop the framework for your research.

Look for a niche in which you can make a difference. Be sure you’re really offering something new to the field. You can’t change the world with one dissertation, so focus on the crux of what you want to explore and add something new to the field.

Only ask questions that can be answered. Use your rich, powerful data to your full advantage, and stick within its confines. Also, determine early on if there are any biases in the data. Your goal is to create an airtight study.

Ask your mentor or supervisor. A good and experienced mentor can be your best resource for providing straightforward advice and direction for moving forward.

Before you start your studies, be aware that there will be times when you will regret a particular choice you have made in the title of your dissertation, It is common to feel that you might have chosen the wrong research topic, so be flexible and be prepared to change your focus over time.

Swiss School of Business Research Ph.D. programme does not require coursework to be submitted and concentrates on helping its students to produce a dissertation.

SSBR gives its Ph.D. students flexibility on choosing a topic for their research studies as long as it contributes to the sum of knowledge in the field of business or management.

The schools’ doctorate professors have studies in fields of:

Education management, business innovation, international management, organisational management, economics, business law and urban planning amongst others.

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