PhD Seminar Series

Professor Brian Fitzgerald
Lero – Irish Software Engineering Research Centre
University of Limerick, IRELAND



This PhD seminar series has been delivered to students who have had backgrounds in computer science, HCI, information systems and software engineering. The course is structured over three sessions and has been taken both on consecutive days and over a longer period. There is preparatory work before each session so some time needs to elapse between sessions. The course has also been assessed at comprising 3 to 5 credits in the ECTS system, depending on the extent to which the preparatory and supplementary work specified in the sessions is undertaken.

The seminar series has evolved (contribution gratefully acknowledged) through delivery in whole or part at:

  • Aalborg University, Denmark
  • Free University of Bolzano, Italy
  • University of Innsbruck, Austria
  • University of Salford, UK

An overview of each session is provided below. Just click on the heading of each session for more detailed content.


Session 1: What is a PhD?

Overview of the PhD process – what is and is not a PhD, the importance of the thesis proposal, reading and writing strategies, overview of research methods, styles of supervision, industry-based PhDs, PhD as a collection of papers, Design science versus natural/behavioural science models. Research paper reviewing.


Session 2: Getting to Grips with Research

In the past 50 years, many disciplines have undergone vigorous debates in relation to the validity of research approaches. This session will focus on competing dichotomies in research approaches, geographic polarisation, pluralism v. incommensurate paradigms, ontology, epistemology, methodology and axiology. Another key concern is the issue of methdological fit, i.e. ensuring the internal consistency or good fit between research elements such as research question, prior work, research design, and the research contribution.


Session 3: The Actual Conduct of Research

Examples of research from idea, through planning, operationalisation of constructs, qualitative case studies (seed categories, open and axial coding), quantitative analysis (preparation of questionnaires, testing for non-response bias, factor analysis for construct validity and reliability) to conference paper write-up, journal paper write-up, and reviews. Plagiarism appears to be on the rise largely facilitated by the Web. Some examples and cases of plagiarism are discussed, and the emergent policies in this area reviewed.