Dissertation Writing – Preparing The Way
- Style of Advising
- Quantitative instruments
- Interpreting the results.
- The professional literature.
4. Interpreting The Results
At the stage of interpreting the classified results, fellow students can be
asked to critique your explanations in order to identify weaknesses in logic
and to suggest alternative glosses that you hadn't recognized.
During the process of writing the final version of the thesis or dissertation,
your peers may be willing to assist by critiquing your plan for organizing the
document, by suggesting styles of tabular and graphic displays, and by proofreading
the ultimate product.
Graduate students, in their haste to complete the thesis or dissertation,
often overlook an important source of information–their own experiences. One
reason for this is that students have been conditioned in many of the courses
they take to locate authority outside of themselves. Textbooks, the professors'
lectures, and assigned readings serve as the fount of knowledge. In effect,
the student is treated as an empty vessel to be filled with information from
Essentialists–those who believe that there is a body of knowledge that contains
traditional concepts, skills and information–argue that there is a canon or
body of literature that must be learned by students in a particular discipline.
In recent years, constructivists–those who believe that each person creates
his or her own body of knowledge–have criticized essentialists for being Eurocentric
and male-centered. Consequently, constructivists often encourage graduate students
to write down, perhaps in outline form, everything they know and feel about
a thesis or dissertation topic before engaging in more systematic scholarship.
Another way of saying this is that the outer curriculum – the course
of study as represented by the text, assigned readings, and lectures–is always
a springboard to the inner curriculum – what each person experiences
as learning settings as cooperatively created. Constructivists would, for example,
encourage the graduate student to ponder the question, "What within my
experience has led me to the selection of this research topic, and how has my
research methodology been influenced by such experiences”" For instance,
if a researcher is studying at-risk children, she or he might point out in the
introduction or in a methodology chapter that the topic was selected because
of the writer's personal experiences in trying to reach at-risk children.
Or, the researcher might write that she or he was an at-risk student as a child, then add that a case-study methodology was chosen as it seems to be the next
best thing to personally "being there." The constructivist as advisor
might also encourage the student to personalize the latter part of the final
chapter of the thesis or dissertation. As one professor said, "The implications
of your findings are where you must spread your wings, for this is the major
place in your writing where the committee must know the personal meaning you
assign to what you have discovered. "Two warnings to be sounded with regard
to constructivism are (1) Be careful that your attitude toward your own experiences
doesn't lead to narcissism, a preoccupation with self that simply compounds
your ignorance and (2) use your experiences as a starting place that leads to
a more comprehensive and precise critique of matters you are researching.