17/08/16


How often can authors identify by name the vast majority of their readership? A disastrously unsuccessful novelist might guess that their grand total of two copies sold were bought by their parents and spouse perhaps? But no author sets out to write for such a tiny audience. Many academic authors of research papers may also have a pretty good idea of who amongst a small group of fellow specialists will read their latest article. But even then there is some room for uncertainty. Did Professor Bigname really read it?

Ph.D students, however, will normally learn the names of their examiners shortly before they submit the final version of their thesis for examination. This creates a unique and final opportunity to gear some aspects of your thesis to a tiny readership group that you can identify by name.

Even if time is short, this is your chance to revisit and revise the entire manuscript with the likes and dislikes of two or three named individuals front of mind. So profile them. Go online, check out their webpages, and read their publications. Ask around: What are they like? Work out there they stand methodologically, epistemologically, and philosophically, and work out how you'll present your own standpoint and your own research in relation to theirs.

Also look out for how your examiners write. Profile them as stylists as well as methodologists and scholars. Don't just look at who they quote, but also at how they quote; how they write and compose their theories and arguments and how they reference. Such writerly clues can be just as useful as any academic profiling in maximising your chances of success with your thesis.

Your Ph.D readers are your examiners - your gatekeepers - and your final thesis draft revision needs to be carried out with them front of mind. So print off pictures and profiles of your examiners, pin them to your wall or computer screen, and look each of them in the eye before you start to write and rewrite those final final drafts of your thesis.


Patrick Brindle