Thursday, June 07, 2007
Got a Book in the Mail Yesterday
A few years ago, I heard about this book, and actually checked it out of the Missouri Southern State University library, filing the concept away in my brain until I would need it. That time has come. I bought it on Amazon.com, from one of their associated vendors ($11, hopefully well spent). It is titled Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in Two Semesters or Less. What I didn't realize was that I was getting the 3rd edition, just published in 2007! Not only that, but an endorsement on the back cover was written by a member of my dissertation committee!!! Here is the complete bibliographic data:
Ogden, Evelyn Hunt (2007). Complete Your Dissertation or Thesis in Two Semesters or Less. 3rd ed. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
When I first saw the title, I thought it was cute. The book does have some excellent commonsense suggestions and checklists. I will try to summarize the most important below.
What a dissertation is
I quote from Ogden (p. 4):
The dissertation is a scholarly work that represents one or more of the following types of research:
1. historical and philosophical
3. exploratory and descriptive
The subject chosen must be definite and of limited range, the method of investigation must be exactly formulated, the value of sources must be established, and the conclusion systematically supported.
She then describes in greater detail what the words limited, definite, and scholarly mean, and reminds the reader that he/she has already done umpteen or more papers of that nature. Then she drives home her point (pp. 4-5):
Make a list of the dissertations you have read in full (abstracts do not count). Think of the most impressive professors you have had for courses. What were their dissertation topics? Have you read their dissertations? List all the dissertations you have used as textbooks in courses. Are your lists short? As a matter of fact the odds are that the paper is blank. Why is it then, if dissertations are such a big deal, that even those of noted scholars have so little visibility? The answer lies in what a dissertation is and is not.
What a dissertation is not
Again, I quote Ogden (p. 5):
Remember that a dissertation is a demonstration of your ability to do a limited research study of the caliber that appears in journals in your field. You are not being asked to find the cure for cancer or write the great American epic.
What this means
I can do this. I will be writing my comprehensive exams the week of June 18-22. Assuming that I can pass them, I will hit the dissertation proposal hard, hopefully having the proposal approved during the rest of the summer months. Ogden's scheme calls for dissertation proposal by October 25, for a June graduation. I will be striving for a May 2008 graduation.
Now, the research design that I want to use is a bit more complicated. John Hunter, our research librarian, has procured several volumes for me via Inter-Library Loan, most important of which is the 768 page Handbook of Mixed Methods in Social and Behavioral Research, edited by Tashakkori and Teddlie (Sage Publications, 2003).
Keep me in your prayers!