A question posed at a faculty seminar held at Massey University recently has set me thinking. My supervisor was the primary presenter, and I was there as one of his protégés that had been asked to make a contribution. My task was explore the importance of access (to make first-hand observations of what actually happens in boardrooms) and, given access, to discuss the implications for both research and knowledge. The seminar was a low-key affair. However, one of the questions gripped me. In asking, the person demonstrated that their understanding of business was quite different from mine. The question was valid and needed to be answered (and it was), despite my judgement that is was rather inconsequential given my worldview.
This brief exchange highlighted one of the main challenges of doctoral research: communication. How does one summarise their ideas and findings into a cohesive story that will be read and accepted by three learned people (examiners!) with a critical mindset? I have a fair idea of what I want to say, but what is the best way to get the message across?
The answer seems to lie in one word: pedantry. And therein lies the challenge, for me anyway. While I know my topic pretty well—having lived and breathed it for nearly three years now—an examiner will arrive at the cover page of the thesis document 'cold'. Researchers need to take readers on a journey, starting with a descriptive title and ending with a solid conclusion. The question taught me that the journey is probably as important as the destination. The introduction should simply state the problem and position the research. The historical view of the research literature, the approach taken by me and the findings all need to be revealed in the pages that follow. The summary of findings should be reserved for the final chapter. Positioning the research is also important. The question reminded me that every term that is subject to multiple interpretations needs to be defined, to avoid misinterpretation. I've had to go back to the literature many times in recent weeks, to check things and to make adjustments. Finally, the spelling, grammar and referencing needs to be 'perfect'.
While the going has been tough of late, the good news is that I am stepping closer to the goal with every passing day, even though my arrival is now more likely to be in January. But I'm relaxed about that.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.