Journal of Professional Nursing

How to survive (and enjoy) doing a thesis: The experiences of a methodological working group

Lynne S. Giddings, RN, RM, PhD, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, Auckland University of Technology
Pamela J. Wood, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Nursing and Midwifery, Victoria University of Wellington

Reference:  Giddings, L. S., & Wood, P. J. (2006). How to survive (and enjoy) doing a thesis: The experiences of a methodological working group. Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 22(1), 11-22. 


‘Doing a thesis’, whether for Masters or PhD, can be a lonely and tortuous journey. This article offers a complementary process to the traditional apprenticeship supervision model. It describes the experiences of students who during their thesis research met monthly in a grounded theory working group. They reflected on their experiences during a focus group interview. After describing the background to how the group started in 1999 and exploring some of the ideas in the literature concerning the thesis experience, the article presents the interview. To focus the presentation, specific questions are used as category headings. Overall, the participants found attending the group was a “life-line” that gave them “hope” and was complementary to the supervision process. Through the support of peers, guidance from those ahead in the process, and consultancy with teachers and visiting methodological scholars, these students not only successfully completed their theses, but reported that they had some enjoyment along the way. This is the fifteenth in a series of articles which have been based on interviews with nursing and midwifery researchers, and were primarily designed to offer the beginning researcher a firsthand account of the experience of using particular methodologies.  

Grounded theory, postgraduate study, peer support, thesis supervision, apprenticeship model, critical groups

Stories abound when mention is made of ‘doing a thesis’. One soon hears of the loneliness, lack of support, not knowing what to do or how to do it, and the ‘what’s all this about a methodology anyway’ angst. Another storyline is offered in this article, the fifteenth in a series based on interviews with nursing and midwifery researchers (refer to Giddings & Wood, 2000, for background information). It gives first hand accounts of the experiences of students, who when doing their thesis, were active in a grounded theory working group that has been meeting monthly since March 1999 in the School of Nursing, Faculty of Health & Environmental Sciences, Auckland University of Technology. Prior to giving background information on the group and excerpts from a focus group interview with eight of its members, we will discuss some of the issues related to thesis supervision and the changing contexts for postgraduate study.

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