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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dissertation as Developmental Stage

The other way of looking at the dissertation is as a stage that a student needs to go through before being a real scholar. According to this argument (a straw man, I guess, because I don't know if people really believe this?), we should expect a dissertation to be dissertation-like because the student is not quite ready for prime-time. I disagree with this, because the graduate seminars are training the student to be a professional. I see no reason for the regressive, unreadable quality of many dissertations. Do the committees really demand unreadability, even as they complain about it? Why do so many aspects of the dissertation make dissertation research more difficult to publish?


Thomas said...

I think one allows unreadability. And I think one sometimes punishes the student who produces a readable version of the same content. It's a real problem in academia: any rational assessment of how to write (given what you know) will suggest that you should inflate your rhetoric.

Keeping your other post in mind: we have a system that actually rewards people who choose poor supervisors and write impenetrable prose.

I don't know what to do about it, though.

Jonathan said...

There should be a way of signaling to a student that readability is not only ok but preferred. As an advisor, I'm going to start doing that. Why have a system that rewards unreadability at one stage (diss) and then condemns it at the next? (grant applications, cover letters for jobs, book prospectuses, etc...)