Tuesday, May 07, 2013

How NOT to Write a PhD Thesis

In 1981 I passed my PhD qualifying exams at Northwestern University and became a PhD candidate. That fall Linda and I moved from Joliet, Illinois, to East Lansing, Michigan, where I worked as a campus minister at Michigan State University. I took the first year off from working on my dissertation. Then, it took me four years to write the thing.

I graduated in 1986. It was hard, intense work. To the very end, when was sweating about whether the margins met Northwestern's standards.

I thought of writing my dissertation tonight as I read University of Brighton professor Tara Brabazon's "How Not to Write a PhD Thesis." After reading this I'm so glad I am finished! Here are Brabazon's 10 things not to do. Read the entire article for explanation.

1. Submit an incomplete, poorly formatted bibliography

2. Use phrases such as “some academics” or “all the literature” without mitigating statements or references

3. Write an abstract without a sentence starting “my original contribution to knowledge is…”

4. Fill the bibliography with references to blogs, online journalism and textbooks

5. Use discourse, ideology, signifier, signified, interpellation, postmodernism, structuralism, post-structuralism or deconstruction without reading the complete works of Foucault, Althusser, Saussure, Baudrillard or Derrida

6. Assume something you are doing is new because you have not read enough to know that an academic wrote a book on it 20 years ago

7. Leave spelling mistakes in the script

8. Make the topic of the thesis too large

9. Write a short, rushed, basic exegesis

10. Submit a PhD with a short introduction or conclusion