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Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach (my reading notes)

I like inexpensive, easy-to-read, fast-paced, nimble books. Writing the Doctoral Dissertation: A Systematic Approach by Davis, Parker and Straub is exactly that kind of volume. My only complaint with it is that precisely because it’s so thin (150 single-spaced pages, regular font size), it misses a lot of trees in order to provide an overview that looks like a forest.

The fact that Davis et al are almost apologetic about not having all the answers in their volume made me really feel happy about having spent my hard earned money on this. Do note, the author’s last name is not Gordon, but I was exhausted last night as I live-tweeted my reading notes of this book.

I’m still uncomfortable with books on how to write a doctoral dissertation or how to manage the PhD process that focus so much on productivity, pages written, output produced. But at the same time, I understand that a doctorate should be completed within a certain time frame, so I suppose there’s value to the productivity approach this and other books take.

Admittedly, writing the doctoral dissertation IS producing text and data and analyses and results, but I’m not sure we ought to treat the work as three 40 pages’ papers plus an introduction and a conclusion and WHAM BAM we have a PhD dissertation. I think there’s more to life as a doctoral student than producing pages.

This book is very easy to read, because these authors’ writing is super agile and nimble. Perhaps their core competency is a discussion of how to choose the right topic and how to “fill a gap in the literature”, an issue that many doctoral students face and it’s hard to deal with.

Overall, this book is super good for what it attempts to do (make it easier for a PhD student to finish their doctoral dissertation), but still is not enough to be used stand-alone, in my view. At least, I wouldn’t assign it to my advisees without providing additional support, either through my own mentoring, or by reading other complementary books.

Posted in academia, writing.

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