The following are notes and scribbles from my attendance at the Nov. 8-11 Doctoral Dissertation Workshop with Dr. Isadore Newman.
This workshop is mainly for the faculty to learn the process of working with doctoral students and for doctoral students to learn the process of writing a dissertation. Three students were selected for the “fish bowl” section of the workshop and I was one of them.
These notes are from the activities of Sunday morning, the last session.
We started the morning with the fishbowl again. Here are some tips & points from that section.
How to find your committee. If you have a one-page ish document that has your title, your “why”, your “what”, and your research question(s) with some consistency, then you can use that document to recruit your committee. Find out if they are comfortable with the topic. You want to have a good sales pitch for getting your committee. It will take some work and dialogue to get to this point.
The difference between dissertation and regular writing is: every time you say anything that sounds like a statement of fact, you reference it. It’s the references that make it scholarly writing.
It’s really neat to see the change in the fishbowl guinea pigs. Each one has a much clearer more consistent fit between the title, the “why” and the “what”.
Keep in mind: continually work on it and get feedback. Don’t think that you wrote it and therefore it’s going to be. Write a little, get some feedback, write again. Keep track of the process and you’ll be able to see where you’ve been before. This way you won’t take that detour again. After a phone or face-to-face conversation, write down what you discussed and send. Remember that the faculty are on the journey too. So you may start somewhere, have a 5 month journey, and come back to where you started.
Also deciding on research method, etc. should be a committee discussion. The methodologist shouldn’t work with just the student if the whole committee hasn’t decided on the method/procedure.
The method doesn’t need to be in the title necessarily, but if you are doing an experimental study, you should put that in the title (pat yourself on the back). It gives more credence to the study. Experimental studies have a higher status in the literature.
Don’t quote anyone in your writing. Instead paraphrase and give the reference.
Newman thinks that replication is more important than statistical significance.
After you hear something a few more times, it starts to make sense. This is partly the saturation he was talking about. Virtually no one ever understands it the first time. You have to hear it a few times for it to make sense.
Try to aim for your title to be 15 words.
You can lose total credibility with someone reading your work if you don’t reference studies already out there. If you have a reason for not using it, you need to say so.
If you know up front that you’re going to change, the dissertation journey will be a lot easier. If you don’t anticipate change, it will be a very frustrating experience. The change is part of the process. Prepare yourself psychologically for the change.
No instrument has reliability and validity. It has good estimates of reliability and validity.
After the break, Dr. Newman gave several examples.
Write a description of your subjects. Write how you are going to select these people. Are you going to use a sampling technique? Check out his book on Survey Research and review the sampling techniques. You need to identify the sampling technique and reference it. Expand also and tell about the strengths and weaknesses of the technique. Every time you add something you’re going to reference it.
Chapter 3 will have the method. Reference the method. Indicate why you chose it, how you are going to use it, and why it’s appropriate.
Another section is the statistical data analysis. Another section is the research design. Newman has samples for all of these.
Most of this writing is descriptive and mechanical. It’s not creative writing. However qualitative research requires much more writing skills. How well you write is much more important for qualitative research.
The last section of the workshop was on publishing. This was a conversation between Dr. Covrig and Dr. Newman. Most of these notes are Newman’s presentation/comments; so I’ve noted the comments from Dr. Covrig.
Dr. Covrig: Can you imagine spending thousands of dollars, hundreds of hours of labor, and giving birth to a dissertation and then leaving it in the crib and not taking care of it? So the question is, how do we move from getting the dissertation finished and on a shelf to getting published?
First, different committee members bring different strengths. You need the concepts and a good research design; you also need someone to help you get the writing and mechanics correct.
Newman said he’d never hire someone who was a single author, because they can’t work well with others. He wouldn’t hire someone who was always the last author either. Teams create better work. Show that you can work collaboratively. Teams work really well when everyone contributes responsibly. It falls apart if there are those who don’t contribute.
After or before you defend the dissertation, submit it for publication or presentation.
You need to learn to receive critical comments. You need to be able to learn from it and grow from it. When you submit an article for publication, it’s going to get rejected. They will tell you the bad stuff. Then you can take those comments and learn from it and improve it. Take all the comments as a checklist of what to change in the article. Learn to take that criticism and learn from it. That’s the beginning of a scholarly community. Your best friends are the ones who will be the most critical.
Don’t be afraid to submit for publication. Even if it’s rejected, it will give you feedback.
Covrig: During the lit review, write a book review and submitted for publication. It shows you that it can go from your computer to some publication somewhere. Then it’s not such a big jump to submit the dissertation for publication.
You could be such a perfectionist and not able to handle criticism and never get published.
If you’re too strongly related to your topic, then you won’t ever finish. Your topic should be something you’re interested in, but not too emotionally attached to it. It’s a curvilinear relationship. If you’re attached too much to it, it’s too hard to receive criticism.
Set a goal to at least submit for publication. At least something has been submitted before the defense.
Newman is on six editorial boards. He has never accepted an article as it is. They are always accept contingent on these changes. Even if he liked the paper a lot, 25 out of 30 comments are negative. They are the things to fix.
Chapter 5 is what you publish. It’s 90% of an article. Lit reviews are also publishable (chapter 2). There’s a lot that you’ve written that you can share.
It’s hard working with your committee. You have to take contradictory comments and resolve it. The dissertation is a learning experience. A very important learning process.
APA – the first author is the supervisor; the person who collects and analyzes the data is the second author. Newman prefers it the other way. The supervisor brings skills and expertise to it and increases the likelihood of it being published. Newman’s request of a gift from the student is a published article.
Dr. Burton offers a research class that is a tour and trip to AERA. The tuition covers some of the cost of the trip. So check out the list of future AERA meetings and put them on your calendar!
It’s been a great workshop & now there is a lot to consider and mull over. Hopefully these notes are useful for you as well.