Writing your PhD: Qualitative Research

This course is intended for PhD students in their final year.

This 7-week course is intended for final year PhD students working on a thesis based on qualitative research, who are in the later stages of their PhD. In semester 1, this course is only available online. In semester 2 it will be available both in-person and online. Students work on various aspects of what is involved in producing such a thesis, and receive feedback from their tutor on extracts from their writing.


Course Content and Unit Aims

Unit 1

Structure and Introduction

  • To explore the features of qualitative research writing.
  • To examine ways of structuring a qualitative thesis.
  • To consider the content, structure and language of a typical introduction.
  • To provide practice in writing an introduction.

Unit 2

The Literature Review

  • To discuss the purposes and principles behind a qualitative literature review.
  • To explore the typical content and organisation of a literature review.
  • To raise awareness of citation practices, including direct quotation, paraphrase, summary, and the use of reporting verbs.
  • To provide practice in writing a section of a literature review.

Unit 3


  • To discuss the content and structure of a qualitative Methodology chapter.
  • To explore the use of language in a qualitative Methodology chapter.
  • To provide practice in writing the “setting” /”context” section of a Methodology chapter.

Unit 4

Your data chapters

  • To discuss the typical elements of a qualitative data chapter.
  • To analyse the structure and language of a sample data chapter from a qualitative PhD.
  • To explore the language used to express caution when interpreting results.
  •  To provide practice in writing a data discussion.

Unit 5

The final chapter

  • To discuss the typical components of the final chapter of a qualitative thesis.
  • To raise awareness of the kind of language typically used in these elements.
  • To practice avoiding repetition in written texts.
  • To analyse extracts from final chapters of qualitative theses.
  • To provide practice in writing a section of a final chapter.

Unit 6

The first few pages

  • To discuss the characteristics of a successful thesis title.
  • To analyse sample thesis abstracts, contents pages and acknowledgements.
  • To practise writing your abstract and title.


Course Dates

  • Online - Wednesday 11:00 - 12:00 

Teaching Methods and Learning Outcomes

At home, you will listen  to a brief introductory lecture and work through a series of tasks which involve analysing sample extracts from University of Edinburgh doctoral theses; expanding your repertoire of useful academic English expressions; drafting short pieces of writing. You will then write a short assignment. In order to benefit fully from the course, you can expect to spend an additional 2 hours per week of independent study, including the written assignment.

You should send the assignment to your tutor, who will respond with feedback on your writing, including comments on style, the use of sources, organisation, and linguistic accuracy. Your tutor will also meet you for a synchronous online class once per week. All materials are provided. 

You will also have the opportunity for a one-to-one on-line tutorial with your teacher, to discuss any remaining questions you may have.

By the end of the course, you should have a better understanding of:

  • ways of structuring the chapters of your thesis.
  • appropriate language for the different chapters or sections, and how to use that language accurately
  • any specific language areas that you will need to work on further


PhD students in the later stages of their PhD, who are ready to present and discuss their data.