Category Archives: Dissertation seminar

Evaluating a dissertation (learning by doing)

Writing an MA dissertation is probably your first step towards learning how to do independent research. It is useful to think of it in terms of “unfolding” a research project. It is again useful to think of it in terms of a stage in the development of your research project, something that can be continued with a PhD application, a PhD proposal and three to five year of independent research as a PhD student.

Independent research

Moving from the status of undergraduate student to the status of a student learning to do research is sometimes difficult and it requires a change in the atttitude. You need to be pro-active, you need to seek help, find your community, find your colleagues; you need to pester your supervisor and insist on regular meetings. You need to discuss your ideas, get feed-back, talk with colleagues, get help. You will need help at every stage in developing your research (in order to get the latest publications in your field, in order to develop and test your argumentation, in order to refine and sharpen your claims  etc.). You also need to see how good, high standard research is done. Acquiring research skills involve a lot of learning by doing.

Unfortunately, the educational system in Romania is such that it does not  always provide the things you need – you might find yourself relatively isolated, lacking proper feed-back, for example. You might find that it is difficult to reach the most recent bibliografical information. You might find that it is difficult to discuss your ideas with colleagues etc.

The answer is simple:  you have to reach out, to the academic community at large, learn how things are done in other parts of the world. You have to find your colleagues in other cetres and universities and obtain help and feed-back in the cyberspace 🙂 Independent research does not mean working alone (in fact, I do not believe one can achieve results by working alone). Becoming an independent researcer simply means a freedom of choice – you can choose your own community of colleagues and collaborators.

Tips: One of the most important secrets in this process of “doing research” and “becoming an independent researcher” is that it requires evaluative skills. You need to evaluate yourself and your work by comparison with other researchers/works/findings in the field. You need to learn what is good research and evaluate your own work in comparison with that.

Where do I find “good research”?

The results of good research are published in good journals. But seeing the results is not always helpful – you need to learn more about how research is done in its first stages, about how research projects are developed etc.

One thing is clear: you cannot find “good research” in the classroom. You need to reach out, where some results are communicated: conferences (be careful: there are good and bad conferences), research seminars, departmental seminars, PhD seminars. In good universities, interesting research is done in the PhD school. Most departments have research projects and most research projects have associated research seminars. It would be useful to hung around such places for a while.

If you cannot find such activities in your immediate vicinity, there is also the cyberspace. There are research communities with interesting blogs, many research projects have an online component. There are electronic lists of research communities. Try to join such lists and engage in discussions. Listen and read carefully.

Other tips:

Here are some tips from Dave Gifford (MIT):

      • Read recent proceedings of the best conferences, and ask more senior people what were the best papers. Try to figure out what  makes a great paper (and thus what makes great research).
      • Keep a notebook that contains your research notes.  Put all of your empirical data and initial ideas in the notebook. Make  notes on a paper as you read it and think about the assumptions of the  author and the importance of the results.
      • Follow references from one paper to another until you  know an area extremely well. Don’t count on your advisor to hand you all   of the relevant papers out of his file drawer. He doesn’t have them all!

Academic standards

One thing you need to learn relate to the academic standards, rules of academic behavior, rules of collaboration etc. I have touched this issue in the previous posts, but maybe it is time for a comparative study of academic standards and rules for doing graduate research in various countries and in different universities.

It is worth having a look at the academic standards for graduate research as defined by the top universities (most universities have special pages or documents explaining such standards and requirements).

Learning by doing (I): reading and evaluating dissertations

Our first exercise in thsi course is to read and evaluate dissertations: MA and PhD dissertations. Again, it is worth beginning with some introductory readings: what are the academic standards in various PhD schools? How does a dissertation look like? What is the recommended structure?

Some PhD schools have quite precise requirements for what a MA or PhD thesis should look like. Find some such requirements here and here. It would be also useful to have a look to the kind of theses/subjects supervised in some of the top departments. Here are some examples from Harvard, Princeton, and an interesting lists of alumni and their work at the HPS department in Pittsburg. Look for the HPS departments at Notre Dame, Cambridge and Oxford. It is worth doing the comparison. Another useful resource is a list of theses in philosophy someone has compiled – you might find interesting theses (and colleagues) there.

The next step would be to read two-three dissertations from the same field – or even with the same subject as yours. It might prove tremendously useful. Choose carefully – and try to find dissertations coming from good departments.

Reading the dissertation: Preliminaries

Don’t just read it as a book. Begin by searching the author (try Google scholar and Who is the author? What did she/he do since the dissertation? Did she/he publish parts of the dissertation? Where? Search then the department. What were the requirements for a PhD/Master thesis in that department?

Reading the dissertation: what to look for

First thing to look for: the thesis/major claim. Once you have found it, open the dissertation at the end and look at the list of bibliography. Evaluate the bibliography (how many title? What proportion between books and articles? The newest titles? Are they “new enough”? Is the bibliography “up-to-date’? Is it specific enough for the requirements?). Then read the state-of-the art chapter.

You might stop here and decide that the dissertation was badly constructed and move to another disertation. Or you may want to continut and read through the argumentation and evaluate the dissertation.

Evaluating the dissertation

Here are some questions a dissertation needs to answer:

  • The thesis: is the thesis clearly formulated and sharpen enough? Does the author explain the importance, scientific relevance and significance of the thesis she/he want to defent?
  • The state-of-the art chapter: is it clear, comprehensive and convincing? Does it cover the relevant materials? (does it explain why the materials covered are relevant?). Does it provide a good context for the discussion/defense of the thesis?
  • What are the steps in the argumentation? How does the author defend/prove her/his thesis?
  • Engaging with the academic debate in the field: does the author engage in the academic debate in the field? Does he/she prove awareness of the discussions surrounding the subject? Does she/he respond to the criticism? Does she/he imagine possible objections someone might raise against her/his thesis? How does she respond to them?
  • Does the author pursue original research? (more on this in a special post)
  • Concluding remarks: read carefully the concluding chapter – does the author summarize the results? Does she/he explain their relevance, importance etc.? Does the author place her/his results in the context of further research to be done? Is he/she making it clear how this research project can be developed in the future
  • Re-read the introduction: go back now and read the introduction. Does the introduction “square” with the rest of what you have read? Is it a good intro in the subject? Is it clear? (there are many things you can find out by re-reading the intro: for example, when did the author hand in the dissertation – whether the dissertation was written in haste etc.)

Write a short evaluation report of the dissertation. Highlight its good points, its strengths and weaknesses. Compare it with another dissertation on the same subject and see what are the good and the weak points of both.


Writing the project proposal (II): How do you turn a project proposal into a dissertation?

Let’s assume you have an idea (some recommend: always have a “Big Idea” ), you have done the preliminary research, you have some (successive and improving) versions of your initial project proposal. The question is now: how to turn this project into a dissertation?

Step 1: Try to place your idea in the context

Imagine your idea/thesis is a new organism which has to be placed in a very well established ecosystem. What features does it need to survive? It has to be original (if it replicates an existing inhabitant of the ecosystem, it is NOT a new organism). But it does not have to be too alien, otherwise it won’t survive.

The ecosystem of ‘ideas’: it is useful to imagine your field in terms of an ecosystem and the ideas as various types of anymals and plants. It is a symplified (and sometimes amusing) picture to which you can relate. Try to identify the big predators (‘sharks’) in the field. The big, slow, grass-feeding mammals. The speedy, agile and quickly evolving small animals. The ‘natural’ enemies etc. What are the big debates/struggles for survival in this ecosystem? Is the field in some sort of equilibrium? Is it decaying? Thriving? Are the predators too many or too few?

Try to describe (in writing) the way your idea/thesis fits into this new ecosystem. How does it relate with the “state-of-the-art in the field”? Find its ‘parents’ – draw its genealogy (Which are the ideas/directions of thought you find yourself continuing?). Find its ‘enemies’ (who are you arguing against). Try to see whether you have enough arguments to fight off such ‘enemies’.

Try to answer the question: What do I need to know in order to make my idea survive in this environment?

Possible outcomes

It doesn’t work 1:  I’M ORIGINAL! No one has had this idea before

Sounds too good to be true. And this is exactly how it is. If you haven’t found anyone dealing with your idea before, it is probably because you didn’t look in the right place. Try harder. If you cannot find anything, you are NOT on the right track. Discuss with your supervisor.

Advice: do not engage in writing if you are in this situation. There are too many ways in which you can fail. Try to change and ammend your subject in such a way that you have the ecosystem described before.

It doesn’t work 2: I don’t have a new idea – others have said this thing before and it seems to be an established position in the field.

This is not that bad – you have found your “close colleagues”. Read them carefully. Try to see them in context: where did they begun? How far did they go? Read them again, with a critical eye. Do you agree with them completely? Are there points in which you see things differently? Can you perhaps reformulate your initial idea?

This is the most important step so far. There are high chaces that your initial idea was too broad, not sharp enough, perhaps quite confusing. Now you can confront with close coleagues, those who have said it before (and perhaps have said it better?). You can sharpen it. You can perhaps even go a step beyond them and add some interesting elements to a well-established position.

It doesn’t work 3: There is a wide debate in the field over my idea. There are already two big camps fighting around it.

This is in fact a very good situation. You have the standard environment for philosophers: the debate. Read careful the two positins and try to clarify to yourself WHY do you support one of the camps. What are the arguments in favor of your idea? Draw a list/map of arguments (pros/cons).  Pay a close attention to the counter-arguments. Read carefully and with a critical eye. Then go on and ask yourself:

  • Can you add a new argument to the debate?
  • Can you come up with a novel refutation of the counter-arguments on the ‘table’?

Step 2: Sharpening your position

Now that you have a good idea concerning the state-of-the art in the field, you have to re-evaluate your initial idea. Sometimes you have to change it completely. The most likely outcome is that you will sharpen it up, focusing on something much smaller than the initial thesis. That’s perfect. You are ready to start writing.

Formulating a new idea: you can also find yourself in the position of giving up your initial idea, ‘convert’ to the position of the opposed camp or ‘evolve’ to a different position. It is all right (it’s a sign you have learned a lot).

Step 3: Discuss, discuss, discuss

It is very important at this stage in your research to discuss your findings, present your new sharpened idea, argue for it etc. Discuss with your supervisor, with your colleagues, with your “close colleagues” (see above).

Step 4: Write an extended version of your research project

Write an extended version of your research project, this time dedicating two paragraphs to the state-of-the-art and one extended paragraph to the way you indend to place your idea in this new ecosystem. Dedicate the second page of the research project to an explication of how do you intend to argue for your (new) idea.

At this stage of research it would be good to plan to turn everything into a paper. This will be a work-in-progress paper you can present to a graduate conference, graduate seminar etc. Try to get other people read your plan – and make use of their feed-back. It’s a very good way to test your plan before actually writing the full disertation.

Advice: One of the most important piece of advice re-iterated endlessly by most supervisors (and sometimes by students too) is: write the dissertation in small chunks and small tasks.

Write something every day (some say: 5-page per day rule; some others are saying: 1 page per day etc.). But write something every day should be your rule number one. Don’t assume writing is easy. It is not. It BECOMES easy if you write a lot, every day (like every other practical task).

More tips on writing here.

Writing the project proposal (I)

Every project begins with a project proposal.  And continues with successive rewritings, until you have a structure and a plan that can be developed into a written piece (paper, dissertation). This project proposal is important at every step in your research – even when you are half-way done with writing your dissertation. You can use it as a map (set of directions). You can always improve it, update it, refine it. Besides helping you with your writing, a good project proposal is always useful when you have to put together an application, write an extended abstract etc.

Here are some tips for writing the project proposal (developed throughout a number of posts).

IMPORTANT 1: Your project proposal is your “master document;” your map in your way to writing a project (dissertation, paper, book). You need to have it in front of you every time you begin writing a new page (chapter, paragraph). It is an ‘evolving’ document – it will change from one stage of writing/developing your project to the next. Re-write it frequently, print it out and have it on your desk when you write….

IMPORTANT 2: These are some tips you can try. Why not try hem, see wheter they work and post a comment below about those tips you think are most useful? Why not share your own tips?

How do I begin?

First (and best) scenario:

I have an idea….

This is the good way to start. If you have an idea, the way forward is easy. You just write it down first, and think about it. Can you develop this idea in such a way that it can constitute a ‘thesis’/statement? Can you argue for it? Can you place this idea/statement in a wider context? What else has been said about it? How can you place your idea amongst what has been recently done in this field?

Step 1:  Preliminary bibliographical research

Spend a week in a library and just look for everything which has been written on similar topics. Draw a list of references. Don’t be selective. Just add and pile everything together. Try to read ‘diagonally’ as much as you can. Search data-bases for recent research. Search PhilPapers for recent research on the same subject.

Step 2: Evaluate the findings

In view of the quantity of secondary literature you have found so far, how does your idea look like? Does it still look interesting? Can you perhaps refine it? Reformulate it? How about discussing it with your colleagues/supervisor? You need some time to evaluate what you have found – and at this step you will need some help.

Step 3: Read and select

Spend two weeks reading. Take notes and keep track of what you read. Try to be selective in your reading.

How can I be selective? How can I choose from hundreds of papers the relevant papers? This is indeed a tricky business and there is no simple answer. You need to develop some kind of ‘flair’ for this kind of research. The simple answer is: do some reading, discuss, find colleagues, ask for help. Talk with specialists (send emails asking for help to people working on the same subject). There are all sorts of short-cuts once you find people interested in the same subject.

Other tips: read some of the work done by the ‘big names’ in the field in the past 10 years. Look for papers published in top journals. Be selective (choose only the best journals).

How do I know which are the ‘best journals’ in the field? (Again this is where colleagues can help. Each field has its top journals and you need to find as soon as possible which journals are the ‘top journals’ for your particular subject)

Discuss what you have read – again, colleagues are important.

Step 3: Overview of the “state-of-the-art”

Once you have read a fair lot (of articles, perhaps also some books or books chapters) try to write an essay review – or at least a brief overview of the “state-of-the-questions” in your field.

Step 4: Discuss the findings

Find someone to discuss your findings with. Present it in front of your supervisor. Talk about it with colleagues. Why not try to turn it into a paper? (give a talk in a seminar, student’ conference etc.) This might be also turned into a nice chapter for your dissertation. However, don’t do it yet. Write an independent paper – an essay review, for example.

The essay review is the kind of paper difficult to write but extremely useful for everybody – it’s a good starting point for other people’s research as well. Not surprisingly, the essay review is also the most easy paper to publish – many editors love to have essay-reviews in their journals.

Step 5: Place your idea in this ‘new’ field. How does it look?

Go back to your initial idea… and place it not in this wider context. Can you perhaps reformulate it in this context? Can you evaluate/assess it? This is the key step in your research. If you can place your idea on this map of ‘current research’, half of your work is already done.

What if it doesn’t work?

What if, after going thoroughly through steps 1-5 you end up discovering that yor idea “does not work”? Well… it depends very much on why precisely it doesn’t work. You might discover, for example, that others have said it before – that what you thouhgt was an interesting problem has been solved already. This is, I think, good news (and more about it in the next post). A slightly worse situation occurs when your idea proves trivial or when it was treated and discarded in the current literature. Or when no-one has even mentioned the possibility that such an idea might be seriously discussed. But there are ways out of each of these outcomes (I think). As I’ve said… more on the next post.

How to choose a research topic?

Choosing a research topic is one of the difficult bits in a student’ s life.  It is also very important – students can spend a lot of time working on what proves, in the end, to be a very badly chosen research topic. There are many ways in which you can get entangled in a bad research topic…

Bad research topics

There are many ways in which your chosen research topic can prove to be  ‘bad”:

  • there are no ways in which you can ask intelligent questions about that subject (“What is the meaning of life?”)
  • although interesting, it is (for all practical purposes) unsolvable (“The mind-brain relationship”)
  • too  much has been written on the subject (“Descartes’ dualism”)
  • some recent (or less recent) books have been written about this subject (which means at least that you are not going to solve it in the time you have at your disposal)
  • too general (too wide, not sharp enough etc. “Kant’s philosophy of science,”)
  • too ambitious (see before – there are many versions of being too ambitious; either because too wide, or because aiming to solve a problem that has been in the attention of the scholarly community for a long time and no-one has managed to solve it, or because it requires expertize in fields you know nothing about)
  • jumping accross the disciplinary divides (sometimes this can be interesting, sometimes is problematic, sometimes is the cause of a failure)
  • too new (nothing has been written on this subject so far…)

How do I know that the problem/question I got interested in can be a good research topic?

Preliminary research

It is important to situate your topic in perspective – and see what is the field you are entering into, who is working on it and where, how recent is the literature regarding this subject etc.

  • delimiting the field of research
  • finding colleagues (use to find colleagues working on the same topic; use Google scholar to find academics writing on the subject)
  • search EBSCO for papers on the topic (you can access EBSCO from the library’s computers or from BCU)
  • search Pit PhilSci archive for papers/drafts on the topic

Once you have identified recent bibliography and people working on the field, why not getting in touch with some of them? It is important to get feed-back of any kind: you might ask for papers, you might even ask for advice.

Here is a slightly different, more personal view on How to choose a research topic:

Important: Don’t work alone! Scientific research is done in a community. You have very few chances to pick an interesting research topic all by yourself!

Becoming a member of the research community

It is always easier to work on your project if you can have help and feed-back, if you are part of a research community. There are various degrees of “being a member of the research community” nowadays. You don’t necessarily have to be full-time researcher in order to be a member of a research community. If you have a private research interest, if you have a question you would like to solve, it is always easier if you know people you might ask for help. How do you get to know people?

  • go to conferences (conferences are places where people mix and discuss their own research interests and find colleagues with similar research interests. Conferences are not just places where you go to listen to talks; they are mostly social gatherings where you can have the opportunity to chat with specialists – during coffee-breaks, for example. It is customary for scholars giving talks to display their email address on the slides. Why do you think this is happening? )
  • register on specialized lists and discussion groups – there are all sorts of electronic lists and discussions groups where you can register (HOPOS, C17list, MERSENNE etc.) Such lists are dedicated to specialized discussions, announcements of conferences etc.
  • build up your own research profile on
  • post something about you, your research interests and your dissertation on the web-page of the institutions (most Departments and  Universities have special pages dedicated to graduate students; why not build up such a page for your department?)

More advanced research

Bibliographical research and the “present state of the question.” The first step in writing a thesis is always a thorough search of the secondary literature in the attempt to draw a survey (map) of the “present state of the question” (also called “the state-of-the-art” etc.). The result of this preliminary survey should be a written text, ideally a paper that can be published separately, as an essay review.

Try to place your question/topic/problems within this field and see it in this wider context. Try to reformulate so that it is clearer and so that it ‘fits’ with other questions in the field. Try to sharpen it.

Write a dissertation proposal/abstract

Once you have done the preliminary survey of the field you are ready to write a dissertation proposal (research project). Ideally, you should have at least two such proposals, a shorter version of it and a more extended version of it.

Short research proposal: This is a one page statement containing the following points:

  • Clear statement of your thesis/problem or question
  • Short explanation of the importance of research (stressing the RELEVANCE “why should someone care?,” and other ways in which your research might be important for a field)
  • The present-state of the question: important prior research in this field
  • Explain your research approach or methodology
  • Stress the potential outcomes of research and importace of each

Once written, discuss your research proposal with your supervisor. Ask for help/advice.

Extended research proposal:

  • Clear statement of your thesis/problem or question
  • Short explanation of the importance of research (stressing the RELEVANCE “why should someone care?,”IMPORTANCE, NOVELTY and other ways in which your research might be important for a field)
  • The present-state of the question: important prior research in this field
  • Situate your research in whis wider field and explain in what way it differs from the others
  • Explain your research approach or methodology
  • Describe the steps of your research: how are you going to demonstrate your thesis? (answer your question?)
  • Stress the potential outcomes of research and importace of each

More on this here.

Acknowledgements, citations, and plagiarism issues

A research project is always build on previous research, done by others. It is important to read this previous research, acknowledge the contribution of your professors and colleagues, cite correctly. Every time you rely on someone’s else contributiou you should acknowledge openly this contribution.

Plagiarism issues

There are many forms of plagiarism. Any form of appropriating someone’s else work without correctly citing it is plagiarism. It doesn’t matter if you reformulate it with your own words, it is still plagiarim. You need to cite everything you borrow.

It is important to know that plagiarism exposed leads to the exclusion from the research/scientific community. The scientific community is build on trust and a whole (tacit) system of values; and breach of the (tacit) rules of the community excludes the trespasser. Unlike other more explicit, legal and official forms of punishment, this exclusion is for good (there are no prescriptions).

More on plagiarism here.


  • citing published works: there are many systems of citations, according to the style you follow (see for example Chicago Manual of Style)
  • citing thesis/dissertations:  you cite them exactly like any other book/paper
  • citing unpublished works: if someone has given you a draft to read, you need to make sure with the author that you have the right to use it and cite it. If the author agrees, you cite the draft as NAME, TITLE, (unpublished) or (forthcoming)
  • citing personal communications: sometimes you borrow ideas from a discussion, from a seminar, from some form of personal interaction (email communication): they need to be acknowledged and cited as well. You need to thank that person for giving you a suggestion, an idea, sometimes help and advice for your own work. It is VERY IMPORTANT to acknowledge this in writing.

More on citing here.


Always ask for help! (One cannot do research alone….)

Try to discover (and follow) the rules of good academic behavior. It might take a while, but it is always worth the trouble (the ‘rules’ of good academic behavior are very similar with the code of good manners; you don’t find them in writing, you need to discover them in practice).

Have a look at the “Academic Family Tree” to learn more about the rules, laws and patterns in the academic community.

The most important “secret” in the business: treat your work as any piece of work belonging to that academic research community. Read it often and with a critical eye. Discuss it with coleagues. Rewrite it. Read it once more. Aks your colleagues to read it and comment on it. Discuss it with other specialists in the field (present it at a conference, submit it to a journal etc.). Get feed-back. Rewrite.

How to write/rewrite

This will be the topic of another course/post. There are many “how to” guides. Here are some I found interesting:




Dissertation seminar

BL oldThis is the blog of the “Dissertation seminar,” a course/seminar for students interested in finding and exploring research topics (and understanding more about research in philosophy in general).

“Dissertation seminar” is an MA level seminar, in English, but undergraduate students are also welcome.

Format: 4 hrs/week seminar (Tuesday 16-20) plus online collaboration on this web-page.

First meeting: Tuesday 5 March, 16-20. (By then, however, you will have to do a couple of things, so read the following carefully).

General presentation of the course/seminar:

 Most present-day jobs are research-oriented. One is expected to be able to put together research proposals, projects, and to take part in open, research-oriented competitions. In order to do this, one needs all sorts of skills: planning efficiently, being able to collaborate and work in a team, being able to respect deadlines, being able to go through a lot of reading in an optimal time, being able to write, re-write and re-re-re write until the result is convincing and competitive.

The purpose of this seminar is to teach basic research skills and abilities (such as: how to choose a research topic, how to write a project proposal, how to discuss a project proposal, how to re-write and collaborate for improving a project proposal). The subsidiary purpose of this seminar is to teach students how to write an academic research proposal and how to develop a research project. More precisely, to learn what a research proposal, research application and research project are and how one can develop, starting from them, papers and dissertations.

In order to pursue an academic career you need to learn to write and publish. Academic activity in philosophy is highly specialized and quite ‘technical’. It has its own jargon and requires precisely defined ‘skills’. Often, books on ‘how-to-do’ begin by saying: “Most students and beginning researchers do not fully understand what a research
proposal means, nor do they understand its importance. To put it bluntly, one’s  research is only as a good as one’s proposal.”

 BLoutsideThe purpose of this “Dissertation seminar” is to teach some of the skills required for ‘survival’ in the present-day, project-oriented, world (irrespective whether you want to pursue an academic career or a non-academic career). Here are some of them:

1. Learning and understanding: understanding the nature and structure of a research project, developing the abilities necessary for picking a research topic and developing a research project. Learning and understanding the way in which research hypotheses are formulated and demonstrated. 

2. Explanation and interpretation: forming the abilities necessary to explain and develop a research project and to transform it into a dissertation plan 

3. Instrumental: learning how to put together a bibliography in an efficient and time-saving way, learning to use online resources, data bases, learning the basics of the scientific evaluation and project evaluation.

4. Atitudes: The seminar will attempt to form in the students the essential attitudes and values of the profession: respect for intellectual work, understanding and developing values essential for research, learning the rules of research, collaboration and community.


This seminar is an MA level research seminar, but undergraduate students can also attend (without receiving credits). It is a compulsory course/seminar for the MA students in Analytic Philosophy (second year).

NB: For all level students willing to take part in the seminar: you need to register via email to

General topics:

1. What is a research project? How do I choose a research topic? What does it mean to have a research project? (When do we have a research project?)

2. How do I pursue a research project? What are the steps in developing a research project?

More specific topics:

  1. Living in a project-oriented, project-dependent-kind-of world. Financing, organizations, requirements, structures.
  2. Research proposals, research projects, research topics.
  3. What is a research topic? How do I choose a research topic?
  4. Bibliographical search 1: how do I select my bibliography? (practical exercise) Bibliographical databases and research libraries (including online libraries)
  5. Discussion on examples of good and bad research topics – on examples provided by the professor
  6. From the research topic to the research questions. How do I formulate the research questions? Estimating the extent and time-length necessary for answering a research question.
  7. Bibliographical search 2: rapid reading, annotated bibliography, review papers. Collaboration and asking for help. In what way can I ask for help from the academic community? Lists of discussions and forms of collaboration.
  8. Steps towards writing the research project: writing an abstract, applying to a conference, taking part on discussions (Why is is important to discuss your ideas?).
  9. Critical discussions of the research projects. Presentation of the research projects of all the students involved in the seminar. Peer-review procedures (what are the peer review procedures? How do they work?).
  10. Issues of plagiarism. Types of plagiarism and related ethical issues. How do plagiarism distroy a career (examples).
  11. From the research project to the work plan. How do I write a work plan?
  12. Developing the work-plan.
  13. Presenting the work-plan: practical exercise for all the students registered in the seminar
  14. Writing the dissertation
  15. Presenting the dissertation
  16. Academic evaluation and methods of evaluation. How is research being evaluated?


The seminar will have two components:

1. Regular meetings (4 hours discussions on assigned tasks and topics). In these meetings students will have to do presentations of various things: projects, papers and dissertations of others and two presentations of their own research topic. They will have to discuss and interact. Participation in the seminar is compulsory.

2. Online colaboration: this blog will form an important part of our collaboration. On it we will post texts and questions, we will distribute tasks and topics and we will collaborate in writing research projects in common. The active participation in writing on this blog is also compulsory.

Course materials and seminar tasks:

All students in this course will share a common drop-box folder where I will assemble quite a large range of materials necessary for our discussions. We will have a data-base of reasearch projects, papers, dissertations which each of you will have to read and evaluate.  Learning how to do research is learning by doing.

A good place to start is by having a look at the financing mechanisms and organization, at the top places where research is planned, organized, directed, measured and rewarded. Here is where the future of European reserach is planned: Compare this with the Romanian Research Council plans and organization:

Seminar tasks:

Task 1: Create a research profile on Each student will be require to create his/her own research profile on the network. Visit, register there are start building your research profile there by uploading a picture, a field/fields of interest, CV, and your reserch topic(s). By the end of the course/seminar each student will have to have a complete research profile on

Task 2: Find people woking on similar things. Using, finding appropriate email lists etc., find 5 people working on your field and get in touch with them. You can write a specialist in your field and you can ask for bibliography, bibliographical advice and even more pointed/practical help.

Task 3: Read two theses/dissertations in your field – in topics similar to your research topic and evaluate them (in writing). Use;jsessionid=DD5E7CB163D912C75E3DEE0658599329

Each student will have to present in a seminar meeting the evaluation of the two teses chosen. Deadline for finding the two theses: 5th March.