When all is said and done, you want to write a researchable dissertation. What do I mean?
Very few people read dissertations for their personal pleasure. Rather, dissertations are cracked open because they say something about something that is important to someone else’s academic work. But the same thing that’s important to you, won’t be important to your classmate, even if you’re looking for information within the same dissertation. You are both looking at a large work with many specific points of study, and you’re trying to find the specific element that is important to you.
It’s kind of like looking at the night sky, and each of you taking interest in a different feature. One of you wants to explore a certain star. Another is interested in a planet. Odds are, someone else needs to know more about a galaxy. But you’re all looking at the same sky and there is specific information that each of you will find valuable.
To help narrow down the night sky to their specific topic of interest, astronomers will use a telescope. If you want to help the people searching your work, their telescope is you writing a researchable dissertation.
The Tale of Two Dissertations
Imagine this scenario for me.
You download two dissertations on the same general subject as part of your research. Neither speaks to your topic exactly, but there’s enough overlap that reading a chapter or two would prove helpful. Using the index you turn to the chapter you need and start reading. One dives immediately into the chapter’s content using terminology that is consistent within that dissertation, but unfamiliar for you the reader. In order to gather the information you need, you need to skim through previous sections of the work, find a number of definitions, and bring that terminology with you so you can gather the information you need.
Frustrated with the first dissertation you turn to the second. Again you turn to the table of contents to find the chapter you need. However, this time, when you arrive the first paragraph offers a summary of the previous sections, including important terminology and definitions. The chapter opens with everything you need to easily read the chapter, gather important content, and move on with your own work.
How many rounds of this process do you think it will take before you just set aside resources like the first one? If you’re like me and you value your time, you’re going to seek out researchable dissertations.
Now ask yourself, how do you want others to interact with your research? If you want a researchable dissertation, read on!
Start with Your Introduction
This part seems obvious. Your introduction lays your work’s foundation. Everything else will build on that chapter.
A key part of your introduction is defining the key vocabulary that will appear throughout your work. In my dissertation, this included key terms like:
- Divine imaginary – the images, ideas, and feelings that God wants to portray about God-self; it’s how God wants us to, in the philosophical sense, imagine God
- immanent-transcendence – the essence of the Divine imaginary, where a God who is, by nature transcendent, chooses to reveal the divine nature through immanence; the scandal of the Incarnation
- tangible-enchantment – humanity’s response to immanent-transcendence, specifically in regards to finding everyday life imbued with meaning and a sense of enchantment; a reframing of the doctrine of vocation
Your research might not include specialized terms like these, but there are certainly specific words you will choose with an important referent in mind. Making sure your readers knows your specific referent is essential for good communication.
The 4 Steps to a Researchable Dissertation
Once you’ve completed your introduction, every chapter will have the same essential four-part framework:
- Remind them what you’ve told them. Summarize all the important stuff up to this point.
- Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Briefly, introduce the meat of this chapter.
- Tell them what you need to tell them. Here’s where you offer depth.
- Tell them what you told them. Review what’s been said so far with an emphasis on this chapter.
Notice how this leads to a researchable dissertation.
Based on your chapter titles, a researcher knows they need to look to Chapter 3 to learn what you have to say about topic x. When they arrive at Chapter 3, you’ve provided a glossary of everything the need to make sense of your dissertation up to that point. When they read the next paragraph, they’ll quickly know if they’ve come to the right chapter or, if they need to move forward or back a chapter.
In the end, other researchers will quickly navigate your work and find exactly what they need. This will exponentially increase the odds of them referring to your work, in their work.
A Bonus Benefit!
There’s a bonus benefit to this formula as well. Researchable dissertations are easier to write for at least three reasons:
- It helps keep you on track with where you’ve been and where you’re going.
- The pattern will help you get into a writing groove or flow.
- The repetition helps with your word count so you can focus on substance over fluff.
Your Questions or Thoughts?
What questions do you have?
How do you make your work researchable?
Please ask your questions or share your thoughts below!
If you need help making your dissertation researchable, I can help!