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July 30, 2005

The *New* Dissertations

I just got back from a quick trip to Madison, WI, to take in a very small segment of the 14th World Congress of Applied Linguistics. It was definitely intellectually invigorating, and I'm coming home wanting to read more theory, which is always a good thing, I think.

One of the most interesting presentations I attended was done by a woman who teaches a dissertation writing class at a university in New South Wales, Australia. She looked at recent sociology and history dissertations completed by new PhDs at her university to see how dissertations might be changing. She described the sort of APA style dissertation (Introduction, Lit Review, Methodology, Results, Discussion/Conclusion) as a Traditional dissertation, and she found that of the 20 they looked at, few followed this format. Most used what she called a modified traditional, meaning that they generally followed the format, but made modifications, most significantly (and not surprisingly), interjecting their own reflexive sense of self into the text (this includes using the first person pronoun, but she also made clear that every use of the first person pronoun is not reflexive). Some dissertations used unusual fonts, including colors. Others had different chapter breaks, and some even included personal reflections in every chapter.

The presenter talked about the risks involved in doing a *new* dissertation--that one's advisor must obviously be in support of such a writing style, and also, it was hard for some to find a committee that was also supportive. I think this issue of support is critical. My MA thesis was much more along the lines of being personal and reflexive, but with my current committee, I'm having a hard time imagining how that would work. On the other hand, maybe I'm not giving them enough credit? We'll certainly see, as I'm bound to bring myself into the text more as the process gets underway.

An interesting point of note from this presentation also was that she told us the most common theorists referenced in the dissertations she examined. Who were these theorists, you wonder? Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, and Guattari. It would be interesting, I think, to examine this question on a much larger scale, given that this list was generated from only 20 dissertations completed at one university in Australia.

Who are your top five theorists? Feel free to post them in the comments section. Stay tuned for another posting when I'll reveal my top five.

Posted by chri1010 at July 30, 2005 2:53 PM


Dear Laurene

Hello. I just so enjoyed your report
about her presentation, remembering both of
your thesis and mine! Your thesis gave me
a lot of inspiration to try out including
more personal aspects in the process of
writing mine and I really appreciated your
having done it before! I could kept believing
that my writing style was not wrong. I hope
you could keep your style in your dissertation
as well.

My top five theoriests are:
Bennet J. & Bennet M,
Paige M. Byram M, and...Taylor.

I'm not sure who I am going to choose
in five or ten years later, though!!
I am looking forward to reading more reports.
Thank you.


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