Master Class: Exploring your Topic. How to explore your topic in preparation for a successful doctoral project




Course fee:

€ 20,- for EGS3H members
€ 100,- for non-members (including drinks afterwards)


 February 19 and 26 (Wednesdays), 2014


Jan-Willem van der Mijde


13:30 – 17.30



EUR Woudestein campus, CT-4


+31 10 4082607

Course description
The aim of the Master class is to provide PhD students with an approach as well as with procedures and tools that can help them to conduct an effective initial exploration of their research topic. 

Target group
PhD candidates in the early stages of their research track.

Working method
'Master class', i.e., discussions of literature and student work rather than lectures. Participants will be informed about how to prepare for the two sessions of the Master class.

Course sessions description

  • Session 1 Exploration of the academic literature

Usually a doctoral project begins with a 'literature review'. The aim of that review should be to explore the academic literature on your topic to such an extent that you can specify the contribution that you are going to make to that literature. Success or failure of your doctoral work will depend to a large extent on the quality of this exploration.

It is very difficult to make decisions about your focus, goal, perspective, etc., in an early phase of your doctoral project. Formal advice on 'how to conduct a literature review' (such as in textbooks on research methods) usually does not provide sufficient guidance in conducting the exploration that you need in this early phase of your project. We will discuss the usefulness of metaphors such as 'funneling' (for your mode of exploration) and 'brick laying' (for your potential contribution).

  • Session 2 Exploration of practice

It is quite common to claim some 'practical relevance' of the scientific investigation of a topic. It is much less common to ground such a claim in a thorough exploration of how the topic appears to 'practitioners' (policy makers, professionals, or general public) as well as of its characteristics (such as frequency, importance, contexts, etc.).

More importantly, even if you only claim 'scientific relevance' of your doctoral work, its quality as well as feasibility crucially depend on your knowledge of where precisely your topic can be found; in what frequencies and guises; under what circumstances; etc. Such knowledge is not only necessary for being 'knowledgeable' about your topic but also for designing a feasible and effective research plan.

Moreover, you will discover that knowledge and understanding derived from a thorough 'exploration of practice' is of great value in critically evaluating the academic literature. We will discuss the usefulness of reading all kinds of literature (news media, magazines, fiction) as well as of other types of information gathering (such talking to 'experts', participant observation, watching movies, and dreaming).

About the instructor

Tony Hak is an associate professor at the Department of Management of Technology and Innovation, Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM). Professor Hak trained as a medical sociologist and psychiatric epidemiologist at the Erasmus Medical Centre, where his specialization was conversation analysis, discourse analysis and text sociology. He completed his doctoral dissertation in 1988 at the University of Amsterdam, where he developed a research methodology for sociological text analysis.

Enrol and pay (iDEAL) for this workshop by filling in the online form.

Note. Non-members of EGS3H who wish to enrol need to contact the EGS3H office directly to check availability.