Dissertation Special Edition Foreword

James Bowker, Ioana Cerasella Chis, Eliza Garwood, Darcy Luke, Mae Rohani

Abstract


Dissertations constitute a major part of early academic work. Whether as an undergraduate or masters’ student, the completion of the dissertation stands as testament to one's development throughout university education. For many, the dissertation is the first real instance of having to grapple with completing an extended piece of research-based work, with all that this entails. Students, when confronted with the project of writing their dissertation, face the challenge of selecting a problematic to address; of developing research questions and methods for answering these; of doing research (in terms of both existing literature as well as using research methods to address novel questions); and of writing this all up and presenting it with the clarity and precision demanded by assessment criteria. It goes without saying that the dissertation is, for many, a great undertaking which entails serious engagement and immense effort. It is for these reasons and more that the dissertation’s fate is lamentable. As a piece of work it is produced as part of a broader assessment of one’s academic ability, and as such the dissertation has a very particular institutional life with all the limitations this implies. Many individuals keep their dissertations and cherish them for a long time after their completion, granted – however, engagement with student dissertations beyond this point is usually limited to the supervisor and secondary marker. When the assessment is done, the dissertation loses any movement, becomes a static artefact archived somewhere and rarely read by anybody else.

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