Thoughts on writing recommendations for a research thesis

Prof Edwin van Teijlingen (HSC) examined a PhD candidate last year whose recommendations were only Prof Edwin van Teijlingenvaguely related to the work presented in the thesis. Since then he has examined several PhD theses which had an interesting range of recommendations not directly related to the student’s study findings. Listed below are his ideas about ‘appropriate’ recommendations:

Many postgraduate students make recommendations that are too broad, too generic, or not directly related to the exact topic of their research. These recommendations are not wrong; they are simply not specific / relevant enough. Examiners like to see some more mundane recommendations that come specifically from the thesis / research work.

First, you should not really recommend anything that you have not previously discussed in the Discussion. The rule ‘no new material’ in your Conclusion is also applicable to your ‘Recommendations’.University of Olomouc thesis from 1713 with motif of Ottoman Wars

Secondly, recommendations are not the same as conclusions. Consider recommendations go one step further than conculsions as (a) ‘something’; (b) ‘someone’; and (c) ‘needs to do’.

Furthermore, there may be different levels within your set of Recommendations, with recommendations for (a) academic (i.e. more research is needed into…), (b) for policy-makers (e.g. data protection act needs to change to accommodate…); for (c) practitioners (e.e. managers in local government need to consider the mental well-bing of their staff); or recommendation for (d) training / education (e.g. health promotion officers employed in inner-city Birmingham need to be trained in being culturally sensitive to several large ethnic minority communities to help them fulfil their role better in the community).

We’re interested to know your thoughts on this and to hear your experiences of advising postgraduate students when writing their recommendations. Let us know what you think by adding a comment.