Print each draft of your dissertation on a different color paper. With the different colors of paper it will be easy to see which is the latest draft and you can quickly see which draft a committee member might be reading.
The one area where I would caution you about using a word processor is in the initial creation of elaborate graphs or tables. So, the simple rule is to use hand drawing for elaborate tables and graphs for the early draft of your dissertation. Once you and your advisor agree upon how the data should be graphically represented it is time to prepare "perfect" looking graphs and tables. Dissertation-style writing is not designed to be entertaining. Dissertation writing should be clear and unambiguous.
To do this well you should prepare a list of key words that are important to your research and then your writing should use this set of key words throughout. There is nothing so frustrating to a reader as a manuscript that keeps using alternate words to mean the same thing. Review two or three well organized and presented dissertations. Examine their use of headings, overall style, typeface and organization. Use them as a model for the preparation of your own dissertation.
In this way you will have an idea at the beginning of your writing what your finished dissertation will look like. A most helpful perspective! A simple rule - if you are presenting information in the form of a table or graph make sure you introduce the table or graph in your text.
If there is nothing to discuss then you may want to question even inserting it. Another simple rule - if you have a whole series of very similar tables try to use similar words in describing each.
If each introduction and discussion of the similar tables uses very similar wording then the reader can easily spot the differences in each table. We are all familiar with how helpful the Table of Contents is to the reader.
Use the Table of Contents to help you improve your manuscript. Then sit back and see if the Table of Contents is clear and will make good sense to the reader. You will be amazed at how easy it will be to see areas that may need some more attention. Do it early enough so you can benefit from the information it will provide to you. If you do this you will no doubt be able to draw a variety of insights that help link your research to other areas.
In other words, what are the key ideas that we can draw from your study to apply to my areas of concern. Potentially the silliest part of the dissertation is the Suggestions for Further Research section. This section is usually written at the very end of your writing project and little energy is left to make it very meaningful. The biggest problem with this section is that the suggestions are often ones that could have been made prior to you conducting your research.
Read and reread this section until you are sure that you have made suggestions that emanate from your experiences in conducting the research and the findings that you have evolved. Make sure that your suggestions for further research serve to link your project with other projects in the future and provide a further opportunity for the reader to better understand what you have done.
But what chapter is the last one? My perception is that the last chapter should be the first chapter. Certainly you wrote Chapter One at the beginning of this whole process. Reread Chapter One carefully with the insight you now have from having completed Chapter Five. Does Chapter One clearly help the reader move in the direction of Chapter Five? Are important concepts that will be necessary for understanding Chapter Five presented in Chapter One? What a terrible name - a dissertation defense.
And, of course, with four or five of them and only one of you it sounds like they may have won the war before the first battle is held.
I wish they had called it a dissertation seminar or professional symposium. I think the name would have brought forward a much better picture of what should be expected at this meeting. Regardless of what the meeting is called, try to remember that the purpose of the meeting is for you to show everyone how well you have done in the conducting of your research study and the preparation of your dissertation. In addition there should be a seminar atmosphere where the exchange of ideas is valued.
You are clearly the most knowledgeable person at this meeting when it comes to your subject. And, the members of your committee are there to hear from you and to help you better understand the very research that you have invested so much of yourself in for the past weeks.
Their purpose is to help you finish your degree requirements. Of course other agenda often creep in. If that happens, try to stay on course and redirect the meeting to your agenda. The most obvious suggestion is the one seldom followed. Try to attend one or more defenses prior to yours. Find out which other students are defending their research and sit in on their defense.
In many departments this is expected of all graduate students. If this is not the case for you , check with your adviser to see that you can get an invitation to attend some defenses. At the defense try and keep your focus on the interactions that occur.
Does the student seem relaxed? What strategies does the student use to keep relaxed? How does the student interact with the faculty? Does the student seem to be able to answer questions well? What would make the situation appear better? What things should you avoid? You can learn a lot from sitting in on such a meeting.
Find opportunities to discuss your research with your friends and colleagues. Listen carefully to their questions. See if you are able to present your research in a clear and coherent manner. Are there aspects of your research that are particularly confusing and need further explanation? Are there things that you forgot to say? Could you change the order of the information presented and have it become more understandable?
I find this practice to be most annoying and one that creates considerable problems for the student. You must work closely with your dissertation director. Develop a strategy with the dissertation director regarding how and when your writing should be shared. Only after your dissertation director approves of what you have done should you attempt to share it with the rest of the committee.
If you prematurely share sections of your writing with committee members you will probably find yourself in a situation where one committee member tells you to do one thing and another member says to do something else.
What should you do? The best answer is not to get yourself into such a predicament. The committee meeting the defense allows the concerns of committee members to surface in a dialogical atmosphere where opposing views can be discussed and resolved.
As was mentioned earlier, your major professor should be seen as an ally to you and "in your corner" at the defense. So, give both of you a chance to guarantee there is no embarrassment.
Meet together ahead of time and discuss the strategy you should use at the defense. Identify any possible problems that may occur and discuss ways that they should be dealt with.
Try and make the defense more of a team effort. This is easy to say but sometimes hard to fulfill. However, the committee members bring a new perspective and may have some very good thoughts to share. Probably the easiest way to deal with new input is to say something like "Thank you so much for your idea. I will be giving it a lot of consideration. Try and be politically astute at this time. What questions do you have for the student? Questions started to be asked that bounced the student around from one part of the dissertation to another.
There was no semblance of order and the meeting almost lost control due to its lack of organization. At that time I vowed to protect my students from falling into such a trap by helping them organize the defense as an educational presentation.
I ask the student to prepare a minute presentation that reviews the entire study. This is done through the help of a series of large pieces of paper, wall charts, that have been posted sequentially around the walls of the room. Each piece of paper contains key words regarding each of the different aspects of the study.
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This is a general statement; your specific reasons will follow in the body of your essay. Write your reason in the space below. In one or two sentences, present your thesis, including a qualification, a reason, and a position. The classic, traditional way of combining is to first present your qualification. This immediately demonstrates your interest in accuracy.
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A thesis acknowledgement is included in an academic thesis paper, and its designation lies in thanking those people who have helped a writer in developing the research and creating an academic paper.
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