6: Situating Your Dissertation

  • Don’t let the idea of the perfect dissertation paralyze you; it doesn’t exist.
  • The dissertation is not your magnum opus; it is the ticket to your professional career.
  • The dissertation is an apprenticeship project; what is “significant” or “original” depends largely on your field.
  • Keep in mind that you are building on existing research. The dissertation is rarely a place where completely “new” ideas are presented.
  • The dissertation is unique in terms of the work you have been doing in your academic career; you are expected to learn how and why you’re doing it as you do it.

The dissertation is designed to show that:

  • You can persevere;
  • You are familiar with what others in the field are writing;
  • You can make a contribution to the field through your research;
  • You can document and make your research available to others;
  • You can suggest future areas for research.

Ask yourself these questions:

1) What characteristics do you feel an ideal dissertation possesses?

2) What do you feel has been or will be your greatest area of confidence as you work on the dissertation project?

3) What has been or might be your greatest challenge?

4) Finally, what purpose(s) do you feel your dissertation might serve for you?