October 20, 2014

Ph.D thesis and creativity: some initial considerations

There is little doubt that many PhD learners have been pouring over many, many guides giving advice on the way to set up a PhD thesis and the way that they should present their PhD thesis. All of the guides online that I have come across have obviously been very useful, but they have something in common: they have not at all touched on the creativity that is involved when writing a PhD thesis. But what is creativity? What is the process of being creative? Is it a behavioural measure? Is it a particular type of thinking? Is it a cognitive state? Is it a mental state? No doubt my conception of what it means to be creative on a PhD will perhaps change during the PhD, but let’s have a little exploration in this initial post on creativity exactly what it means to be creative with the thesis.

It’s important, and probably figured out, by now that there is a definite structure to the PhD thesis. There is the background / introduction chapter, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and then an assortment of different appendices. Within each chapter there will be sub chapters and various headings flying about the place. Some people who are not academic writers have dismissed this approach as suppressing creativity; that too much structure and the language used does not promote creativity. But really, there is an element of creativity, and perhaps at the moment at least initially, this could be called controlled creativity, not supressed creativity: the structure of the thesis allows for your creativity to shine, but in a controlled, structured way. I’ll explain this further.

I do view the PhD thesis so far as creative, simply because of this: this is your research, this is your chance to explore the areas that you want in various creative ways, this is your chance to communicate creatively with the technology that you have, this is your chance to use technology creatively to assist you with your objectives, this is your chance to communicate using academic language creatively to effectively, and creatively, communicate your research ideas and findings to the academic and wider community.

You can be creative in terms of the research areas you want to explore. Investigating research literature can be very creative even though you are following a process of literature investigation. From investigating the literature you can select and design your methodology creatively. You can use and present the data that you have collected and analysed creatively. You can explore and discuss research results in creative relevant to the research questions and hypotheses, which themselves have had an element of creativity in their design and development.

As can be imagined I do believe that there are many ways in which any PhD learner can be creative in their research from research conception, through analysing existing literature, through designing research questions and hypotheses, through designing and implementing methodologies, through analysing collected data, and through discussing and disseminating research findings.

This is an area that I shall be discussing a fair bit on here as I travel through this long and winding journey of post graduate research. Till the next creative related posting, keep creative, creatively!

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