Writing the Successful Thesis and Dissertation
ENTERING THE CONVERSATION
Chapters 3, 4, and 6
- Understanding writing as a process can enable writers to discover a workable topic.
- Scholarship can be viewed as an ongoing conversation.
- The proposal is a rhetorical genre in which writer, audience, and text interact to fulfill a particular function.
As you read, keep in mind the following questions:
- What is already known about this topic?
- What would someone in the field like to investigate further?
- What question can I ask that will lead me to find out more about this topic?
- What method can I use to find an answer to this question?
Look for ideas in other theses and dissertations.
Be practical when choosing your topic.
Join the conversation.
Tuning into the conversation:
- What is the name of your “field”?
- What is your field “about”?
- Why is this field important?
- What issues does this field address?
- What are the prominent journals in this field?
- Who are the prominent scholars in this field?
- What issues in this field generate disagreement?
- What aspect of this field interests you the most?
The Proposal as a Genre
- What is the function or purpose of the proposal? That is, what is a proposal supposed to do?
- For whom is the proposal being written? For what audience is the proposal intended?
- What role should the writer of a proposal assume?
The primary function or purpose of the proposal is to argue for the worth of the topic selected for the thesis or dissertation. The goal is to convince:
- The project is worth doing.
- The project can be done using the method stated and in the time allotted.
One contributes to the conversation by:
- Addressing a problem or question that others have addressed unsuccessfully.
- Finding a gap in the literature that needs elaboration or clarification.
- Conducting a study that needs to be repeated or modified.
- Analyzing a text that differs in some way from previous analyses, or applying a theory or analytic tool in a new context.
Problematizing is central to the process, and a convincing proposal argues:
- The problem, question, or issue is worth considering.
- The problem is important to the profession.
- The problem has not been addressed adequately in the profession, although there probably has been some work done on it before.
- The author has a viable strategy for addressing the problem in a reasonable time.
To be convincing the writer must:
- Explain the nature of the problem, question, or issue.
- Demonstrate its significance in the field.
- Establish that the author has investigated prior scholarship.
- Present a means of addressing the problem or question.
- Show that the work can be completed in a timely manner.
Possible method: Problem, Question, Purpose
How to present an appropriate authorial persona:
- Use an appropriately formal academic style.
- Use an appropriately qualified style.
- Clarify and document your statements.
Elements in a Proposal:
- Establishing the background and context of the research problem in question. (relevance)
- Explaining the problem, issue, or question set within the context of the field. (significance)
- Defining key terms
- Showing that the proposal writer is familiar with relevant literature.
- Explaining the approach, theory, or method that will be used.
- Describing a likely structure for the final product that will be written and a time schedule for completing the project.
Diagram of John Swales’ CARS (Create a Research Space) Model:
A “move” can be understood as a “direction” in which the text proceeds to make its point, and when you look at the moves in the text you read, you will be able to construct a map that will help you navigate.
- Establishing a territory
- Establishing a niche
- Occupying the niche
- Introducing the field
- Introducing the general topic within the field
- Introducing the particular topic (within the general topic)
- Defining the scope of the particular topic
- Preparing for present research
- Introducing present research
Reviewing the Process of Mapping a Text:
- Get an overview of the topography.
- Examine the text for its central “moves”.
- Consider the text in a rhetorical context–figure out the nature of the conversation.
- Situate the text within the discipline.
- Identify areas of intertextuality.
- Compare this text to other texts you have read.
- Ask yourself why you reading this text.
- Create signposts in the text.
- Keep track of your own location.
- Evaluate your presence within this text.
Questions associated with a Literature Review:
- What is my central question or issue that the literature can help define?
- What is already known about the topic?
- Is the scope of the literature being reviewed wide or narrow enough?
- Is there a conflict or debate in the literature?
- What connections can be made between the texts being reviewed?
- What sort of literature should be reviewed? Historical? Theoretical? Methodological? Quantitative? Qualitative?
- What criteria should be used to examine the literature being reviewed?
- How will reviewing the literature justify the topic I plan to investigate?
Key Terms associated with a Literature Review:
- Compare and Contrast