Dissertations: Past, present, and future
Matthew D. Barton, University of South Florida, United States
University of South Florida . Awarded
Current policies and traditions regulating the dissertation process are responsible for a devaluation of dissertations and fail to recognize the economic and technological developments wrought by the emerging Internet. Some of the problems with the current process involve ideology, such as the insistence that dissertations be single-authored, original, and owned by someone. Others involve adherence to traditions that no longer serve a useful purpose, such as forcing authors to conform to a format better suited to a printed book than an online project. Finally, economical considerations such as the costs involved with purchasing and training authors to use advanced technology and an overall resistance to technology are inhibiting the evolution of the dissertation and stifling progress.
Scholars and administrators must be willing to change their attitudes and policies towards the dissertation process. Specifically, they should consider how electronic writing spaces differ from print spaces and allow students to find innovative uses for images, sounds, videos, and interactive segments. Secondly, they should allow authors to collaborate with others in the dissertation process and quit emphasizing originality or adherence to rigid conventions that make dissertations difficult to read and write. Thirdly, they should seriously question the economic imperative to let authors copyright their work and should instead make every effort to ensure the fruits of these labors are available to all.
A decisive reformation of the dissertation process will naturally stimulate wider and more influential changes to scholarship as a whole. Scholars must understand how to collaborate effectively and disseminate their research. Administrators must find ways to properly evaluate faculty when making hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions. The scholarship of the future must take into consideration the possibilities inherent in the electronic writing environment and not be ruled exclusively by conventions and norms better suited to print. The Internet offers scholars a new and powerful collaboration tool which can radically improve the production and dissemination of scholarship; however, the new scholarship will differ markedly from the conference presentations, journal articles, and scholarly monographs so long associated with scholarly activity. A focus on how the dissertation process can change to better accommodate and take advantage of the Internet and advanced digital technology provides insight into how scholarship as a whole might successfully move into the future.
Barton, M.D. Dissertations: Past, present, and future. Ph.D. thesis, University of South Florida.
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