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1 Doing Your Dissertation: One Step at a Time Doing Your Dissertation: One Step at a Time Office of Graduate Studies and Academic Affairs March, 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "1 Doing Your Dissertation: One Step at a Time Doing Your Dissertation: One Step at a Time Office of Graduate Studies and Academic Affairs March, 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 Doing Your Dissertation: One Step at a Time Doing Your Dissertation: One Step at a Time Office of Graduate Studies and Academic Affairs March, 2006

2 2 The Challenge Make an independent contribution to your field and communicate it, demonstrating that you have the knowledge, research skills, and motivation to do so Make an independent contribution to your field and communicate it, demonstrating that you have the knowledge, research skills, and motivation to do so Plan, conduct, and complete the biggest project of your life Plan, conduct, and complete the biggest project of your life Please a committee of readers Please a committee of readers

3 3 Sources of Guidance Your dissertation director/mentor Your dissertation director/mentor Other faculty in the department Other faculty in the department Other doctoral students Other doctoral students Completed dissertations in your field Completed dissertations in your field Your school’s office of graduate studies and school-specific guidelines for dissertations Your school’s office of graduate studies and school-specific guidelines for dissertations Books on the subject Books on the subject

4 4 Think Dissertation All the Way From your first course on: Identify gaps in the literature, and therefore possible dissertation topics, as you take courses Identify gaps in the literature, and therefore possible dissertation topics, as you take courses Read more and write papers in areas of special interest Read more and write papers in areas of special interest Gain needed experience and ideas from involvement in faculty research Gain needed experience and ideas from involvement in faculty research Complete the requirements for advancement to Candidacy (course work, comprehensive exam) Complete the requirements for advancement to Candidacy (course work, comprehensive exam)

5 5 1. Pose the Research Question The hardest part for many The hardest part for many Not the same as choosing a topic—that’s easier Not the same as choosing a topic—that’s easier Need to be familiar with previous work on the topic; research questions come from thoughtful reading of the literature, previous research Need to be familiar with previous work on the topic; research questions come from thoughtful reading of the literature, previous research Generate questions about the topic that are (a) interesting, (b) important, and (c) answerable Generate questions about the topic that are (a) interesting, (b) important, and (c) answerable

6 6 Interesting??? Interesting to you (you’ll be at it a long time!) Interesting to you (you’ll be at it a long time!) Interesting in your field Interesting in your field Maybe even interesting to your grandmother Maybe even interesting to your grandmother

7 7 Important??? Tests a leading theory? Tests a leading theory? Will help resolve a debated issue in the field? Will help resolve a debated issue in the field? Brings together concepts that have not been brought together before, looks at things from a new perspective? Brings together concepts that have not been brought together before, looks at things from a new perspective? Helps explain discrepant findings? Helps explain discrepant findings? Improves measurement of a key construct? Improves measurement of a key construct? Asks a question that needed to be asked? Asks a question that needed to be asked?

8 8 Important??? It’s not enough to argue that no one has studied it before (maybe nobody cared!) It’s not enough to argue that no one has studied it before (maybe nobody cared!) It’s usually not enough to replicate prior work using one more demographic group, one new little methodological wrinkle It’s usually not enough to replicate prior work using one more demographic group, one new little methodological wrinkle Yet it doesn’t need to be the Great American Research Idea, either! Yet it doesn’t need to be the Great American Research Idea, either!

9 9 Answerable??? A question can be very interesting and important but not answerable, or not answerable within the scope of a dissertation project A question can be very interesting and important but not answerable, or not answerable within the scope of a dissertation project Can the research question be framed in terms of specific, measurable constructs, can the hypotheses be tested? Can the research question be framed in terms of specific, measurable constructs, can the hypotheses be tested? Are the library resources or data you need available or gettable? Can the project be done in a year or so? Can you cover the costs? Are the library resources or data you need available or gettable? Can the project be done in a year or so? Can you cover the costs?

10 10 2. Develop proposal with mentor’s input One school/department may require only a brief prospectus, another may require the first three chapters of the dissertation: One school/department may require only a brief prospectus, another may require the first three chapters of the dissertation: Introduction (with clear statement of the research question and its significance) Literature Review (should lead right into the research question and hypotheses) Methods (tells how you will answer research question)

11 11 3. Form Dissertation Research Committee (or Research Advisory Committee, etc.) In addition to dissertation director (mentor, advocate), or director and co-director, usually need two other members at this stage In addition to dissertation director (mentor, advocate), or director and co-director, usually need two other members at this stage Use outline of proposal to acquaint potential committee members with your project Use outline of proposal to acquaint potential committee members with your project Seek committee members with relevant expertise, including methodological Seek committee members with relevant expertise, including methodological

12 12 4. Defend Proposal/Obtain Approval to Do Dissertation Varies by school, but proposal must be approved by dissertation research committee Varies by school, but proposal must be approved by dissertation research committee Committee meeting usually involves systematic questioning on theory and methods, pass/fail outcome, and suggestions for improving the proposal that grow out of the discussion Committee meeting usually involves systematic questioning on theory and methods, pass/fail outcome, and suggestions for improving the proposal that grow out of the discussion

13 13 5. Obtain Required Research Approvals Student is responsible for research compliance if project involves human subjects, animals, hazardous materials, RNA/DNA, etc. Student is responsible for research compliance if project involves human subjects, animals, hazardous materials, RNA/DNA, etc. See for forms and procedures See for forms and procedureswww.gwumc.edu/research Leave plenty of time to get approval Leave plenty of time to get approval Do not begin data collection until approval is in hand or you will not be able to use the data Do not begin data collection until approval is in hand or you will not be able to use the data

14 14 6. Obtain Funding if Needed Estimate costs and discuss with dissertation director Estimate costs and discuss with dissertation director Faculty grant funding and other GW funding sources may exist Faculty grant funding and other GW funding sources may exist At see Dissertation Funding at a Glance, a guide to competitive fellowships and grants to support dissertation research At see Dissertation Funding at a Glance, a guide to competitive fellowships and grants to support dissertation researchwww.gwu.edu/~fellows

15 15 7. Conduct Research Develop a timeline for collecting data and analyzing it, or for reading relevant texts and writing chapters of literary analysis Develop a timeline for collecting data and analyzing it, or for reading relevant texts and writing chapters of literary analysis Break large tasks into smaller ones and go at them one by one Break large tasks into smaller ones and go at them one by one Keep dissertation director posted if the unexpected happens or if your thinking takes a new direction Keep dissertation director posted if the unexpected happens or if your thinking takes a new direction Write as you go… Write as you go…

16 16 8. Write (Rest of) Dissertation A Word template with a dissertation format acceptable to all GW schools is available at: A Word template with a dissertation format acceptable to all GW schools is available at: Determine what style manual is followed in your department (e.g., Turabian, Manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations; American Psychological Association, Publication manual Determine what style manual is followed in your department (e.g., Turabian, Manual for writers of term papers, theses, and dissertations; American Psychological Association, Publication manual Follow your school’s guidelines on margins, type size, paper weight, order of parts, etc. Follow your school’s guidelines on margins, type size, paper weight, order of parts, etc. Write and rewrite in response to feedback from primary mentor and committee members Write and rewrite in response to feedback from primary mentor and committee members

17 17 9. Select Final Examination Committee Dissertation Research Committee of at least three, plus: Dissertation Research Committee of at least three, plus: Two additional examiners Two additional examiners Varies by school, but usually at least one of the added examiners must come from outside student’s department or school or even from outside GW Varies by school, but usually at least one of the added examiners must come from outside student’s department or school or even from outside GW Sometimes neutral dean’s representative sits in on the defense or chairs it Sometimes neutral dean’s representative sits in on the defense or chairs it

18 Schedule Dissertation Defense (alias Final Oral Examination) When draft of entire dissertation is ready, circulate it to the entire examination committee plenty ahead of desired defense date, asking whether it is ready to defend When draft of entire dissertation is ready, circulate it to the entire examination committee plenty ahead of desired defense date, asking whether it is ready to defend If committee signs off, schedule date/time for defense with plenty of time for all to read version that will be defended If committee signs off, schedule date/time for defense with plenty of time for all to read version that will be defended Complete Application for Graduation Form by deadline. Complete Application for Graduation Form by deadline.

19 Defend Dissertation Final Examination session open to the public Final Examination session open to the public Normally begins with chance to highlight purposes, findings, and significance of work Normally begins with chance to highlight purposes, findings, and significance of work Mainly questions and answers Mainly questions and answers Committee decision: Committee decision: >Pass with no revisions (rare) >Conditional pass (Pass subject to making specified changes to satisfy dissertation director or all/part of committee—can range from minor to more significant) >Fail (must redefend)

20 20 Helpful Reminders The committee approved your project. Assuming you did what you said you would, the committee is very unlikely to decide that it was a dumb project to do! The committee approved your project. Assuming you did what you said you would, the committee is very unlikely to decide that it was a dumb project to do! They may question how you executed or interpreted things, though, so be prepared to explain yourself. They may question how you executed or interpreted things, though, so be prepared to explain yourself. Remember that all dissertations are flawed! Remember that all dissertations are flawed!

21 Finish Your Dissertation! It’s typical to have to make changes after the dissertation defense. It’s typical to have to make changes after the dissertation defense. Double check important things like the title, abstract, and your name! Double check important things like the title, abstract, and your name! Turn in the signed approval form indicating that the final examination committee accepts the dissertation and turn in the required number of copies of the final dissertation. Turn in the signed approval form indicating that the final examination committee accepts the dissertation and turn in the required number of copies of the final dissertation. Turn in Proquest/University Microfilm Form and Survey of Earned Doctorates Turn in Proquest/University Microfilm Form and Survey of Earned Doctorates

22 Publish Dissertation Proquest/UMI—All dissertations must be submitted there for archiving Proquest/UMI—All dissertations must be submitted there for archiving GW Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) Initiative—see part of a national movement to make theses and dissertations more accessible for free GW Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) Initiative—see part of a national movement to make theses and dissertations more accessible for freewww.gwu.edu/~etds However, you can withhold access to all or part of the dissertation for a specified period (e.g., 1 or 2 years) in order to pursue a patent or publication opportunity if you wish However, you can withhold access to all or part of the dissertation for a specified period (e.g., 1 or 2 years) in order to pursue a patent or publication opportunity if you wish

23 23 Publishing with Proquest/UMI or on the Web Does Not Prevent Other Publishing The Doctoral Dissertation Agreement Form from Proquest says you are granting them a nonexclusive right to reproduce and distribute the dissertation, not an exclusive right—that means you can publish parts elsewhere (e.g., in articles or books) The Doctoral Dissertation Agreement Form from Proquest says you are granting them a nonexclusive right to reproduce and distribute the dissertation, not an exclusive right—that means you can publish parts elsewhere (e.g., in articles or books) You have the copyright by virtue of being the author; registering a copyright is mainly useful if you have something commercially valuable and want to be able to sue others for copyright infringement. You have the copyright by virtue of being the author; registering a copyright is mainly useful if you have something commercially valuable and want to be able to sue others for copyright infringement. You’re responsible for ensuring you have permission to use material that is not your own. You’re responsible for ensuring you have permission to use material that is not your own.

24 Really Publish Dissertation Making your dissertation accessible via the Web does not prevent you from publishing parts of it as articles or reworking it as a book. Making your dissertation accessible via the Web does not prevent you from publishing parts of it as articles or reworking it as a book. Yes, you’re tired, but get it published soon! Yes, you’re tired, but get it published soon! And don’t stick it in a drawer just because you’re rejected the first time—Keep at it! And don’t stick it in a drawer just because you’re rejected the first time—Keep at it!

25 Applaud Your Achievement and Graduate!!!!!! If all goes well, in a year or two’s time, you really have shown that you are capable of generating knowledge in your field. If all goes well, in a year or two’s time, you really have shown that you are capable of generating knowledge in your field. No, it’s not as great as you might have hoped, but it’s yours and it’s done!!!! No, it’s not as great as you might have hoped, but it’s yours and it’s done!!!!

26 26 The End—And the Beginning


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