A Student Guide to Writing Research Reports, Papers, Thesis and Dissertations by Cathal Ó’Siochrú

Joe Gazdula

A Student Guide to Writing Research Reports, Papers, Thesis and Dissertations by Cathal Ó’Siochrú. 222 pp. (pbk). Abingdon: Routledge (2022) ISBN 978-0367-62103-9.

The title of this book suggested all things to all people, covering research reports, papers, theses and dissertations, and it seemed a big task to fit all these into a single paperback, yet the author appears to have managed it. The writing style is friendly and, unlike many other publications in this field, written in a way which is friendly and readable. However, this does not reduce the approach or quality of content which covers all the items in the title in a way which will advise and, perhaps more importantly, encourage the reader to write. As such I would say this is particularly suitable for a full range of students and academics from an undergraduate starting out on a first dissertation to early career researchers taking their first formative steps to constructing a journal articles and to more experienced researchers needing a little clarification, guidance or just motivation to write.

A general overview is given in Chapter 1 which introduces the chapters and differentiates between different types of research output; it also has a useful guide on how to use the book which is particularly helpful as this is the type of book readers can ‘dip’ into and out of for information. The second chapter is the introduction to research.

This is supported with fictional students’ accounts and examples of their research which really bring the notion of research to life. All the practical requirements of both interpretative and positivist research are covered, and common mistakes are identified which should show newer researchers that resilience is a required as a normal feature of researching. The end of the chapter has a number of enjoyable activities which really do open the ‘research curtain’.

Chapter 2 covers the literature review and follows the same format as Chapter 1. It covers many of the more basic aspects of a literature review which can be overlooked in other research publications. The structure, acceptable sources and how to frame research questions and hypothesis are covered with clarity and in a way that will help newer researchers overcome the general problems of how to deal with content that may well be repeated later in the research document. Again, common mistakes are given along with some interesting activities at the end.

One of the areas which causes researchers most difficulty is methodology. This is the focus of Chapter 4 which provides a structured approach to developing a clear methodological narrative. The two clearly helpful sections – the basics and the advanced – really help here. The basics in this chapter will help researchers cover not only the structure of the research section but also help to formulate a considered design. Again, this is really brought to life with examples such as ‘Ciara’s’ operationalising of candidate stress in job interviews. These example sections should help all researchers develop a written style which is appropriate to their research. The advanced section will help the reader develop real quality in their research. The section on positionality is one of the easiest to follow that I have read, and will add much to research where reflection is a part. Here the end-of-chapter activities include a section on mistakes, and these are referred back to the page and specific section.

Chapter 5 deals with research results. It is an important chapter as this section in many books leaves the analysis and presentation of results to the researcher. While this is not a chapter which deals with specific types of analysis, I would recommend this to researchers as compulsory reading as it deals really well with how to present results in a way which would be understandable to the majority pf readers. Again, the examples add so much to this, and particularly ‘John’s’ description of his one-way ANOVA. Common types of analysis are covered, but it is the ‘how to explain findings’ where this chapter really succeeds. The refinements part of the chapter will also prove useful as many researchers present a large amount of data or information and leave it to the reader to work out the key parts which inform the study. By giving a guide to what might be left out this should ensure focussed data or information has priority.

The research discussion is covered in Chapter 6 and this will help researchers as a it offers  a checklist of the important things to do/include and not to do/include in a discussion chapter. Here we have extracts of ‘Kate’s’ discussion chapter which provides an excellent example of not only what to write but how to write. It covers the way to deal with information from the literature review, methodological issues and future research. For more advanced research reflexivity is a welcome section, and here the common mistakes and refinements sections should give really practical help.

Again, interesting and relevant activities end the chapter.

Chapter 7 covers abstracts, references and appendices and what should and should not go into them. Chapter 8 is about desk-based research and deals with archival and literature searches, including how to conduct a systematic literature review in plain terms, which is easy for even novice researchers to follow, an often underused and undersold approach to dealing with literature in afield. The section dealing with theoretical research is highly informative in this chapter and will work as an instructional guide for anyone doing this type of research. The final chapter covers the dos and don’ts of academic writing, and will be a must-read guide for anyone serious about researching.

Overall, this is a well written, highly instructional book which has an engaging style and really does bring researching alive with the written examples and pseudoresearcher content. The activities are realistic and well thought though, and whatever the type of research being pursued the approach, development and presentation of the research will be well informed by this book.

Gazdula, J.(2023) Review of A Student Guide to Writing Research Reports, Papers, Thesis and Dissertations by Cathal Ó’Siochrú. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 14(1). Available at: https://educationstudies.org.uk/?p=20867 [Accessed 27 May, 2024].


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