PhD Structure Template



● Research question and immediate debate.

● How the PhD addresses and resolves the debate.

● The new theory that the PhD develops.

● New causal and/or explanatory variables that are introduced.

● The essential argument that the PhD makes.

● The specific contributions of each PhD chapter.

● The PhD’s overall structure and plan.


Chapter 1: New Theory


● The chapter’s goal.

● The literature gap and what it reveals for the research question.

● The basic reorientation that the chapter achieves.

● The critical assumptions of existing theories.

● What the chapter will achieve: its original contribution.


Overview of the Existing Literature


● The major paradigms and causal claims of the major theories.

● Theory Strand 1 and subsequent developments.

● Major theoreticians and contributions for Theory Strand 1.

● The theory-building structure of Theory Strand 1.

● Critics of Theory Strand 1.

● Similar structure for Theory Strand 2, 3 . . . n.


Analysis of the Major Theories


● The theory-building gap / puzzle in the Theory Strands and what the New Theory resolves.

● Past work that is suggestive of the puzzle that the New Theory resolves.

● Why the theoretical arguments remain underdeveloped.

● Competing theories that fail in explanatory power compared with the New Theory, and why.


New Theory


● What the New Theory introduces as a new causal and/or explanatory variable.

● The foundations and key assumptions of the New Theory.

● The causal logics of the New Theory.

● Theory-building tensions between the New Theory and existing theories.


Theoretical Foundations


● The concept at the heart of the New Theory.

● Incomplete notions that the New Theory addresses.

● Deductive or inductive logics of the New Theory.

● The New Theory’s different set of priorities.

● Exogenous conditions that shape the New Theory.

● Primary factors that shape the New Theory.


Summary of the Argument and Competing Hypotheses


● Summary of the chapter’s original contribution to theory-building and theory-testing.

● Diagrammatic summary of the New Theory’s causal logic.

● Expectations and implications of the New Theory.

● What the case studies will demonstrate about the New Theory.

● What Chapter 2 on methodologies will discuss about the case studies.

● What the case studies will demonstrate about the New Theory versus its alternatives.

● Closing argument on the value of considering the New Theory.


Chapter 2: Methodology


● What methodology has been used in the major studies to-date in the problem domain.

● What recent studies have demonstrated in terms of methodology selection.

● What the case studies will contribute to a new understanding of methodology.

● Summary of the chapter’s planned contribution to methodology.


Contribution of Past Studies


● The key variables that the problem domain and major studies revolved around.

● The major studies in the problem domain and the debate around them.

● What new studies in the problem domain have revealed.

● What new possible variables are needed to answer the past debates.

● The major studies that suggest the need for new possible variables.

● What is incomplete about the major studies’ explanations of new possible variables.

● How the major studies have tried to deal with this incompleteness.

● What the New Theory would suggest in dealing with this incompleteness.

● Recent studies which anticipate the New Theory in terms of methodology.

● Findings from recent studies that cause a rethink of prevailing assumptions.

● Conjectures that are partial explanations of the New Theory.

● What has been put forward separately that suggests the New Theory.

● How to interpret the findings of these studies.

● Summary of the main findings of past and recent studies.


A New Approach and a Summary of Findings


● The limitations of past and recent studies that the new approach will address.

● Causal methods and process tracing of the new approach.

● How selection bias and generalizability will be dealt with.


A New Approach to the Study’s Dependent Variable


● The deductive logic of the study’s dependent variable.

● Limitations of existing deductive logic to deal with the study’s dependent variable.

● Additional problems that are faced in understanding the study’s dependent variable.

● Defining the study’s factors.

● Explanatory reasons for the study’s factors.

● Endogenous nature of the study’s factors.

● Justification of the study’s chosen method.

● Scoping of the study’s chosen method and required data collection.

● How to evaluate the evidence from the required data collection.

● The larger causal picture that the data collection fits into.

● Summary of the study’s key research questions that the case studies will answer.


A Summary of the Findings


● Structure of the summary.

● Structure of each selected case study.

● Criterion for case study selection.

● Summary of across-case comparison.

● How the case studies answer the study’s key research questions.

● What the required data collection revealed to answer the study’s key research questions.

● What was novel and / or surprising about the study’s findings.

● How the findings support the New Theory versus existing alternative explanations.

● How the data collection evidence deals with potential criticism of the New Theory.

● Discussion of the case studies and the data collection evidence.

● What the case studies reveal about systematic variables.

● Summary of case study interpretation and New Theory framework.


Chapters 3 and 4: Case Studies


● What the chapter’s case study is on.

● How the New Theory provides an explanation that existing alternatives do not do.

● Potential complications of the case study.

● How existing alternatives may answer some aspects of the case study versus the New Theory.


Origins of the Case Study


● The scholarly consensus on the case study.

● The key causal factors that the case study will address.

● What is critical and not so critical in the case study.

● The knowledge gaps that the New Theory will fill in the case study versus existing alternatives.


Background of the Case Study


● Deep roots of the case study.

● Major events in the causality of the case study.

● Major decisions in the causality of the case study.

● Major strategies of the strategic actors of the case study.

● Re-evaluation of historical periods of the case study.

● Popularity of existing explanations of the case study.

● Limitations in the existing explanations of the case study that the New Theory addresses.

● Reasons for the changes in policy of the strategic actors of the case study.

● Summary of the historical chronology of the case study.


Case Study Pivotal Decision and / or Historical Period


● Background to the pivotal decision and / or historical period.

● Major pivotal decisions and / or events of the historical period.

● The decisions and reactions of different strategic actors.

● Summary of the key dynamics in the pivotal decision and / or historical period.


Thematic Analysis


● The main categories that the case study explanations can be grouped into.

● The level of analysis that the different case study explanations function in.

● Key aspects of the original argument that the case study makes.

● What evidence the original argument draws on.

Key events that the original argument uses.

● Key decisions, expectations and priorities that advance the original argument.

● What the above analysis demonstrates.

● Implications of the above analysis.

● How views and aims of the strategic actors evolved over the key events.

● Summary of what the case study explains versus existing alternatives.


Analysis of Case Study Strategic Actor and Temporal Period


● Existing consensus in the scholarly literature.

● Problems with the existing consensus.

● Weakness of the existing consensus that opens the way for the New Theory.

● Basic facts of the case study milieu.

● Strategic actor priorities and obsessions in their decision calculus.

● Chronology of key events and decisions.

● Systematic causes versus unit-level causes.

● How the above analysis supports the New Theory and challenges existing alternatives.




● This chapter’s original contribution.

● What the case studies illuminate about the knowledge gap.

● The causal chronology and the case study results.


Chapter 5: Implications of the Argument


● What the project and the case studies have shown.

● What existing alternatives state about the key research questions.

● How the New Theory addresses the key research questions.

● What new dimensions must be incorporated into the New Theory for explanations.

● What the New Theory builds on in terms of paradigmatic logic.

● How the major strategic actors might reason using awareness of the New Theory.

● Comparative logics of the major strategic actors using awareness of the New Theory.

● The empirical outcomes of the New Theory and the case studies.

● What the rest of the chapter will achieve.


Broader Implications of the Theory


● What the case study chapters have shown about the New Theory.

● What the methodology chapters have shown about the New Theory.

● Insights of the New Theory about the strategic actors in the case studies.

● How the New Theory helps to understand knowledge gaps in existing alternatives.

● What the case studies have revealed about the study’s dependent variable.

● Implications of the New Theory for unit-level variables.

● Practical implications of the New Theory.

● Further methodological advances that the New Theory might underpin.




● Explanatory and predictive value of the New Theory and case studies.

● New research that can be undertaken using the New Theory.

● Further theoretical studies that are needed to understand the New Theory.

● Dilemmas and puzzles that can be explored using the study’s findings.

● Final implications for the development of sound theories.