The Dissertation As Teacher

The Dissertation As Teacher

A…provocative article was published today at the Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “The Dissertation Can No Longer Be Defended.”  The article is premised on a pretty flimsy claim: that “The dissertation is broken. Many scholars agree.  So now what?”

The author never actually makes it clear that “many scholars” agree with her premise.  She cites examples of a few innovative new dissertation formats in the digital humanities, and also cites examples of improved CUNY fellowship package that helps graduate students focus on research rather than TAing.  Those are two very different things.  Better fellowship packages help promote stronger traditional dissertations.  Innovative formats, particularly when they play an augmenting role, are no direct challenge to the dissertation.  (If a dissertation committee opposes your innovative proposal, they quite possibly have a point!)  And speaking as a still-pretty-new faculty member (I defended my dissertation in 2009), I’ve never once heard from a scholar who felt that the dissertation as a whole was “broken.”…

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