This is the story of what i did during my doctorate. When i began i was a bit confused about what topic to pick. So, i undertook a really big, broad literature review in order to bring myself and my supervisor up to speed on a field of possible topics. I wrote this up as a long chapter to get me through assessment by my department at the end of the first year. After that, i narrowed the topic down a lot more and did an exhaustive literature review on a bit of the field where i thought i could do better than previous authors. Next i worked a great deal on my research methodology (or whatever ‘techy’ bits the research involved – for instance, i did a lot of searching for and accessing archives / i collected a lot of numbers / i translated a big text / i devised a framework for doing a content analysis / etc.).
At last, mid-way through my secod or in my third year i went out into the field and got my hands dirty doing empirical research (or it may be, i went and i sat in foreign libraries or an archive for a year / i analysed my numerical data over and over / i interviewed a lot of people / i did experiments in the labs). At this point i discovered that things in the outside world (or the archive documents / the library materials / the interview tapes / the computer databases / the test tubes) are pretty confusing and hard to make sense of. The results i got did not really support what i had expected to find, (or sometimes, did not seem to have any regconizeable pattern at all). Because i was puzzled, and a bit a loss, i wrote several long chapters setting out in raw detail much of what i’d actually discovered, and trying to make preliminary sense of this findings.
By now, i’d almost used up my word limit, my phd finances were running low, and i was becoming jumpy that i’d never make it into the academic job market. So i pushed ahead to get things finished up somehow. My last chapter contains the little bit of ‘post hoc’ ratinalozation of my results (or rethinking of my opening perspective) that i managed to scrape together during a very rushed final drafting stage.
the same...same old story.. :)