Thursday, December 23, 2010

Great Advice for Dissertation Students

Gary King has posted online a pdf file with some really good advice for grad students, such as:
  1. "Dissertations are useless 5 minutes after the defense and so don’t write a
    dissertation, write a book or a series of articles; they will qualify fine as
    a dissertation. (& don’t ever use the word “dissertation” in the text) "  Or thesis.  I hate it when a student refers to a dissertation as a thesis.  The idea is that the dissertation is a bad draft of a good book.
  2. "Do not go to dissertation defenses (except your own!!); they are a waste
    of time. Go to all the job talks you can and imagine you’ll be in their
    place soon."  McGill students tend to go to defenses.  Yuck.  I understand they want to support their pals, but double yuck.  No need to see that particular sausage get made.
  3. "Rigorously organize your work to answer the key question. Ruthlessly
    remove any point, section, or paragraph that does not directly answer
    this question or address your argument. (You don’t have to delete these,
    which can cause separation anxiety! Just put them in a folder for other
    projects.)"  Absolutely--if it does not fit, kill it.  
  4. "Do not write a literature review. Those people have their own books and
    dissertations where they make their points; they don’t get to be in your
    work unless they help you make your point." Hallelujah!!  Lit reviews kill brain cells--that's a fact.  You need to refer to work to show how others have gotten the question or answer or both wrong.  To build your theory, but not just to prove that you read a lot of stuff. 

 Good stuff.  Check it out.

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