Showing posts with label Dissertations. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dissertations. Show all posts

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Why don't people publish articles from their dissertation !!!

This is a pet peeve of mine. Somebody writes a dissertation, and then does not publish journal articles from the dissertation. Perhaps they drop out of the field, or perhaps they publish only chapters for edited books. But a dissertation doesn't really exist as a professional publication; although dissertations have to be approved by a committee, they are not peer reviewed. There are some real stinkers out there.

In the past few days I've come across two more cases of this. One is a dissertation on a theme that I have long been interested in, but have been disappointed that there was not a detailed targeted study of the phenomenon. So I see a citation to a dissertation on just this theme, by a student of one of the archaeologists to popularized this theme. I can't get the dissertation online, and various searches turn up no publications by the author. Arghhhhh....... The second example was a text in which a young professional archaeologist (Assistant Professor, PhD ca. 5 years ago) waxes poetic over the important advanced he or she made on a particular topic in their dissertation. OK, let's take a look. There are a few book chapters on other topics, but no journal articles and nothing at all on the particular topic in question.  Arghhhhh........

Perhaps I am running up against people who wrote their theses following the "dissertation as process" viewpoint, in place of the "dissertation as product" viewpoint that I favor. The first views dissertation work as a learning experience; a student learns to set up a research design, gather data, analyze it, write it up, etc. It is not important whether the topic is important or not, or whether anyone cares about the research, or whether it gets published. Adherents to this approach think that graduate students should not waste time publishing articles - that takes precious time away from reading everying published in the field.

The "dissertation as product" viewpoint suggests that a dissertation is a professional work that should be judged in the same way that a published book or journal article is judged. The topic should be relevant to current disciplinary concerns, and the work should be an important contribution to knowledge. If one follows these concerns, then the student will learn to do research along the way. And when the dissertation is done, it should be easy to crank out a few journal articles in rapid succession

The "dissertation as project" approach sounds crazy to me. I can't imagine writing a dissertation merely as an exercise to learn methods. As a professor, I can't imagine accepting a dissertation on a non-important and irrelevant topic, so long as the student learned something along the way. But at a former university I had some colleagues who believed in this approach. I was completely baffled when they would say that students should not publish articles, but then reading Krathwohl helped put this into perspective; Krathwohl was where I found this terminology (diss as project and diss as product) (and Krathwohl is the best guide I know to organizing a social science research proposal).

Krathwohl, David R.
    1988    How to Prepare a Research Proposal: Guidelines for Funding and Dissertations in the Social and Behavioral Sciences. 3rd ed. Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, NY.

Anyway, if you write a dissertation, please please publish some articles. Some of us out here might be interested in what you are doing. (and please keep this in mind for MA papers too).