by Jonathan Gehrz | May 31, 2011
A few weeks ago, I introduced Barbara Lovitts and her works on differentiating between the consumption and production of knowledge. What we learned: the skills and attributes developed in the course, academic phase of the program is far different from those needed in the dissertation research phase. As you are developing your identity and competence as an independent researcher, be mindful of your interdependence with the program and as Lovitts labels, those rules or expectations which are implicit. In a virtual environment, this is perhaps even more difficult, as those community gatherings or unscheduled encounters with your faculty and peers are limited by our geographic divide. Granted, some would argue this socialization comes throughout the discussion had in the courserooms or while attending a colloquia, but as we’ve noted there is a difference and independence in dissertation. What implicit standards or criteria have you identified thus far?
Certainly not exhaustive, but a few examples that come to mind:
- Your research must relate to your discipline area. You may smile at such a conclusion, yet a quarter rarely goes by that I engage an initial dissertation conversation with an individual wanting to research a topic external or poorly aligned with his or her discipline.
- Your dissertation maintains a criterion of being a “unique” or “original” contribution to your discipline’s body of knowledge. Yes, while No Child Left Behind remains of interest in K12 education and retention is critical in higher education; Lovitts reminds us of the importance of originality and significance.
- Your time spent on creating your manuscript will be great. As an adult learner, there perhaps no greater stress than that brought on by time, or lack thereof, and cost. In a perfect world, we would all love to commit a full-time effort to our dissertation work, but the realities are such, that dissertation often is left to weekends and the hours before and after a full-time+ job, family, and other responsibilities. This of course prolongs our tenure in the program, but can also lead to a diminished commitment brought, in part, by the independent nature of the work itself.
- Other implicit expectations may fall within the manuscript itself. For example: is your work substantiated by current and relevant research? Is your methodology/design appropriate for the problem identified and questions being asked? Does your literature reflect a grasp of your intellectual understanding of the field?
If you have the opportunity, I would encourage your reading Lovitts’ Making the Implicit Explicit: Creating Performance Expectations for the Dissertation. It’s a wonderful read and appropriate for both researcher and mentor/advisor alike. As you prepare or continue your dissertation pursuit, however, take time to think about whether you have a firm understanding of your program’s implicit expectations. Doing so will bring you one step closer to your own independence and contribute to a far more rewarding experience in your continued research endeavor.
Lovitts, B.E. (2007). Making the implicit explicit: Creating performance expectations for the dissertation. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC.