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Dissertation Writing – Preparing The Way

  1. Beginning.
  2. Style of Advising
  3. Quantitative instruments
  4. Interpreting the results.
  5. The professional literature.

2. Style of advising

Professors vary greatly in how they work with students on theses and dissertations.
Those at one end of a monitoring scale closely control each phase of the student's
effort, in some cases dictating what is to be done at every step, then requiring
the student to hand in each portion of material for evaluation and correction.
Advisors at the opposite end of the scale tell students to work things out pretty
much by themselves and to finish a complete draft of the project before handing
it in for inspection.

Advisors also vary in how available they are when students need them. Some
are frequently away from the campus. Some require students to make an appointment
with a department secretary several days or weeks ahead of time in order to
confer about the individual's research. Others allow students to drop by the
office or to phone any time they need help. Some answer queries only in their
office. Others permit students to phone them at home.

Professors also differ in the way they offer advice and criticism. Some are
blunt about the shortcomings of a student's effort, perhaps derisive and abusive.
Others are direct in pointing out weaknesses in the candidate's work, but they
do so in a kindly, understanding manner, recognizing that doing serious research
is a new endeavor for the student and that mistakes along the way are not only
expected but can function as valuable learning opportunities. Yet others are
so cautious about potentially hurting a student's feelings that they are reluctant
to point out weaknesses in the project and thereby fail to guide their advisees
toward correcting the shortcomings of their efforts. Consequently, you will
likely find it useful to learn ahead of time about faculty members' styles of
directing theses and dissertations–about how closely they monitor steps in
the process, how available they are to offer help, and how skillfully they identify
deficiencies and suggest solutions without unduly damaging students' egos.Your
best sources of information about advising styles are usually (a) fellow graduate
students who are farther along than you are in the thesis or dissertation process
and (b) other professors whom you know personally and who are willing to talk
about their colleagues' modes of guidance.

Attitudes toward topics and methodology

Faculty members often disagree about what constitutes proper research. Consequently,
you might end up with an advisor whose notions of suitable research topics and
methods of investigation are at odds with your own beliefs. Therefore, three
types of information you may wish to seek are your potential advisors' views
of (a) quantitative-versus-qualitative methods, (b) positivism-versus postmodernism
perspectives, and (c) basic-versus-applied research.

Quantitative-versus-qualitative methods: As these terms are generally used,
quantitative research involves amounts, which are usually cast in the form of
statistics, but qualitative research does not involve amounts in any strict

Here are titles of projects that might be categorized under each type: Quantitative:
Germany's Economic Growth, 1950-2000

Rural and Urban Educational Achievement in Oregon
Amounts of Public and Private Finance for Welfare Programs
Generational Height and Weight Comparisons–Japan and the USA
The Growth of Tourism–Florida and Alabama
Short-Term Effects of Three Antidepressant Drugs

Qualitative: The Philosophical Foundations of Psychoanalysis
Silverado – The History of a Frontier Town
A Theory of Political Participation
One Week in the Life of a Deaf-Mute
Judaic Foundations of Islamic Doctrine
The Present-Day Relevance of William James's Pragmatism

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