As of later this month, it’s been a year since I signed and submitted my doctoral thesis – 3 years of work, 350 pages and over 92,000 words. Understandably, after that sort of commitment and saturation with your topic, you find you want to put it behind you and get some separation once its handed over. Depending on what you intend to do with your doctorate research though, along the way and at post-doctoral stage, there is a need to visit it in various forms and learn to communicate your material in a multitude of ways.
As a PhD candidate you’re told (as part of your induction in the early weeks) that as few as six people might read the entirity of your finished work. I’m happy to say I’ve reached that target, thanks to an editor, two supervisors, two reviewers, and my mum. However, nailing down over 92,000 words to key messages for wider audiences can be difficult. To aid this, I’m sharing a few ways – social, professional, diagrammatic, academic and practical that I’ve used (or are using) to communicate the key lessons of my PhD work.
“So, what is/was your thesis about?” is a pretty common question of the last 3 years. You learn gradually to condense and clarify what you are doing to different people. I found I developed two major streams of elevator spiels:
Professional version: “I used a configurational theory of organisational design to investigate differentiation and integration within complex organisations. Further, I looked at imbalances between these two variables that created barriers to functioning and how organisations invested in integration mechanisms to remove these barriers”.
Social version: “I worked with some of Australia’s leading national sport organisations, looking at their structures and the conflicts that exist within those organisations, and how they changed things to become more efficient”.
A perpetual favourite of mine and present in a number of presentations, the word cloud has been helpful to communicate key themes in a short amount of time. The one here is produced based on the whole thesis and the particular the focus on issues and measures of efficiency is clear here. The terms represented here unveil a number of the key issues raised in organisations as either inhibitors to functionality and how the organisations were improved.
THE ACADEMIC OUTCOMES
As a continuing academic production of journal articles and papers become logical extensions. For me, two are being prepared, currently at the stage of working papers:
An e-book based on the research and further observations of national sporting systems will also be available later in 2012.
THE PRACTICAL MESSAGE
Finally, I’ve also found it’s been useful to develop a simple tool or vehicle by which the key findings can be easily understood. This is not so much about ‘dumbing down’ key messages, but more finding a way that the depth of multiple case studies can be generalised in a quick and easily interpretable manner.
In one of my later conference presentations, I worked the findings to align with the concept of ’7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, a popular book by Stephen Covey which has sold over 15 million copies. The book itself conveys powerful but general lessons around proactivity, vision, strategic planning, optimisation and efficiency, lessons well aligned to looking at organisations as well as in the sence of self improvement of people – which is the topic of Coveys work.
To conclude this topic, a version of my 7 Habits of Highly Effective National Sport Organisations will be released in a post next month.
 In a more sobering finding this equates to about 83 words a day.