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So, what's the story?

In my many tutorials with doctoral researchers over the years, I've found myself asking the same question over and over again when giving feedback on writing: 'So, what's the story you wish to tell the reader?' Very often, the response I get is a bit of a blank look! I can hear the cogs of the researcher's brain whirring and imagine that they're thinking something like 'Does she think I'm doing a creative writing doctorate?' or 'Doesn't she realise I'm writing my thesis, not a story?'

The reality is that every piece of research that is written about has a storyline. If you're a doctoral researcher writing your thesis, you're creating a storyline about the research journey that you've been on for the last few years. By storyline, I mean the golden thread of coherence that runs through your writing. If you like, the thesis is the product of your research journey - a coherent research story that's strong enough to stand up to all the scrutiny and criticism that your supervisors and examiners will subject it to.

An important aspect of creating that research story is knowing which aspects of your research journey to include and which to leave out. The journey you've been on has probably led you down many blind alleys, and you're likely also to have had a few 'Eureka' moments too. Putting together a coherent research story that conveys your contribution to the field, the rigour of your study and the quality of your argumentation and/or analysis is not simply a story that you pluck from thin air; rather, it is a story of what you've discovered through the course of your research, how you've discovered it, why it's so valuable to discover what you have and how future researchers can build on what you've found.

So, what's YOUR story?

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