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4 Key Points About Writing a Dissertation Proposal

It’s your third year in the doctoral program. You’ve taught like a god. You’ve written seminar papers that have made your teachers weep (in a good way). And you’ve logged more time on airplanes and in hotels than in seminar rooms. The world is starting to know you and your ideas.

You’ve passed comps or prelims.

What do you do now?

Pat yourself on the back. You’ve taken your warm up laps, and now it’s time to get ready for the marathon that’s ahead of you. It’s no secret. But nobody seems to know it. Unlike law school or med school, academic grad school is really two programs.

There’s the coursework, which you’ve aced.  Right? That’s all great stuff, but it’s over and you’re on your own now. You’re doing your own stuff. This is the FUN part of graduate school. You’re basically a baby professor at this point.

Now, what most of the dissertation editing books don’t tell you about this part of graduate school, the dissertation stage, is one little word:

Entrepreneurship

What, you may ask, if you’re in the sciences or, god help you, the humanities, does dissertation writing and scholarship have to do with MBA stuff. That’s the stuff you didn’t want to do.

The short answer:  Everything. From here on out (and you’ve already been doing it in coursework, teaching, and conference presentations) everything is about pitching and selling ideas.

Everything.

Does the thought of selling really make you queasy? Get over yourself! Ideas mean nothing if no one wants to read them.

The dissertation phase is about pitching your ideas to your advisor, your committee, and, if you get lucky, fellowship committees.

So, get ready to sell!

It’s time to write the dissertation proposal: the truly condensed version of your dissertation. It’s short and sweet. Usually, it’s about five to ten pages. So, how do you write the proposal?

First off, this is one of those chicken or egg kind of questions. You have to enough to write the proposal. But you won’t know enough to write the whole dissertation. Generally, what you want to do in the dissertation proposal is to  frame a question.

You need to be very bold here. Make arguments and assertions, the bolder the better. You also want to present a pretty clear outline of what you intend to do in the dissertation itself. Obviously, you’re in a weird situation here. You don’t know a lot. But you know some things. It’s best to err on the side of audacity. Make your arguments as bold as possible and as clear as possible.

You need to know the current state of your discipline quite well. That’s a given. And you have to announce to the world what you want to do. How are you going to be making a new intervention in the world of scholarship that you know well? That’s what people are going to want to know. What’s new and or exciting about what you want to write?

Start off with a one paragraph argument.

This first paragraph should state what your argument is and probably what you’re basing this argument on. Who are the major players in the field, and how is what you’re writing addressing gaps or problems in their work?

Then write your sub-arguments and conclusion.

Each paragraph that follows (and these can be huge, whopping big paragraphs) can list your sub-arguments. Then, after that, you have to propose a conclusion to what you’re writing.

The secret about a proposal

Would you like to know a little secret about the proposal?

It’s generally pure fiction.  What you really write about in your dissertation may or may not conform to what you’re writing about here. That’s just the way things are in this world. But you absolutely do have to write this proposal.

You’ll submit it to your advisor and your committee members and everyone will sign off on it. And then you can get started. Now, you may or may not get full buy in from your committee. Generally what I found is that most of your committee members really won’t care one way or another about what you write. They’re too busy writing their own stuff. So, you can generally sneak your own writing in under their radar.

Score a Fellowship

Do a very good job on the proposal because it can serve as the basis of fellowship proposals. And, baby, you want a fellowship.

Why?  Because if you get one of those puppies—anywhere between about twenty thousand dollars and fifty thousand dollars, you can have a very nice year. You can go wherever you want to write the dissertation. Imagine writing on a beach somewhere down in Mexico.

Fellowships are your friend. And they also mean that you don’t have to take time out to teach those pesky undergraduates unless you really want to.  They can also set you up for being published, and they make you look like a good candidate for a job. So, do everything that you can to win yourself a dissertation fellowship.

OK, let’s say you’ve written a killer proposal. Your committee says, “My god, this is the next big thing.”  And of course I knew you could do it.  You edit the proposal slightly and win yourself a fellowship. You’re in like Flynn.

What do you do next? It’s not a bad idea to find a good dissertation editing service to be sure your proposal is well-edited before submitting it.

Then, you have to write the dissertation, of course—which we’ll start tackling the next  installment.

 

What Is Plagiarism?

It is plagiarism when you take something out of a book and use it as your own.  If you take it out of several books then it is research. — Ralph Foss quoting Wilson Mizner

One moon shows in every pool, in every pool the one moon. – Zen Proverb

As a concept, plagiarism is easy to grasp: you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own.  In practice, plagiarism can be a slippery little sucker, eeling away to hide amongst quotations, fair use, common knowledge, and figures of speech.

Even worse, there is a distinct difference between academic plagiarism and the kind that happens off-campus.

Fortunately, the complexities of plagiarism can be navigated with confidence as long as we remember that the crime is a combination of theft and fraud.  The value of the stolen object comes from the originality of its idea and/or the quality of its prose.  The level of fraud depends on what is extorted from the victim.

In school, plagiarism occurs when the student tries to defraud the teacher of a grade by convincing the teacher they created something actually written by someone else.  It does not matter if the actual author – such as a friend or a Website – agrees to this fraud.  That only makes them an accomplice.

Professional plagiarism, however, requires that the original author does not give permission for the use of their work.  For instance, an unknown song writer gets their tune stolen by a popular band.  Even if the ditty turns out to be a dud, the song writer is the victim of theft, regardless of whether the song were copyrighted.

However, people who take from the author with permission are not plagiarists. Speech writers, ghost writers, and the like may give or sell their work if they want to.  While the public may feel defrauded when they learn some actor’s “autobiography” was actually written by someone else, well, cry me a river.

But, you may ask, what about when the original author is dead?  The moral answer is that passing off any dead guy’s work as your own is definitely plagiarism.  The real answer is to get a lawyer to check if the estate holds a copyright.

So by understanding just what plagiarism is, we can tell when and how plagiarism occurs.

Scenario 1:

John gets an assignment in his history class to write a five-page paper on Thomas
Edison.  He goes to Wikipedia and copies and pastes five pages of stuff.  The only thing he actually writes is his name.  Then he puts the whole paper inside quotation marks and lists Wikipedia on his Works Cited page.

Has plagiarism occurred?

No.  John indicated exactly what he took and where he got it from.  He still gets an F for being a lazy twit, but he hasn’t violated the honor code.

Scenario 2:

Jane writes an article for the local newspaper on pollution in the drinking water.  Stressing to meet her deadline, she goes into the paper’s “morgue” and finds an article written twenty years ago by some guy.  She takes a few lines about the responsibilities of the government to keep the public safe.

Has plagiarism occurred?

Yes.  She’s stolen from the author and defrauded the newspaper.

Scenario 2 -a:

Jane writes an article for the local newspaper on pollution in the drinking water.  Stressing to meet her deadline, she worries her last paragraph is really dull and livens up her prose with a famous but unaccredited phrase from Shakespeare: “to thine own self be true.”

Has plagiarism occurred?

No.  Jane assumes that the reader will recognize the quote and that no one will think it’s her original phrase.  The credit to Shakespeare is left out because she deems it unnecessary, not because she’s being deceptive.

Scenario 3:

Jose get an assignment in his third grade class to give a presentation on choo-choo trains.  He goes home and asks his parents about it, then he watches a couple of shows on TV about trains.  His friend has a father who works on trains, and he shows him some drawings of the inside of a locomotive.  Jose eventually draws his own picture of a train and shows it to the class while telling them about the things he’s learned.  He gives no credit to anyone but himself.

Has plagiarism occurred?

No.  Though the information was new to Jose, he gathered up common knowledge and presented it in his own words.  No one in the class thinks he’s pretending he invented trains or is the first person to talk about them.

Scenario 4:

Josie is writing a dissertation on President Bill Clinton.  She’s fortunate enough to get a personal interview with him.  It lasts for hours.  She puts sections of the interview in her book, taking care to attribute them all correctly.  She particularly likes his discussion of regulation and its effects on the economy.  Worried that the dissertation is getting “quote heavy,” she takes several of his sentences explaining the basics, substitutes a few words, and leaves off the quotation marks.

Has plagiarism occurred?

Yes.  Changing a few words still makes Clinton the co-author of the sentences, and removing the quotation marks means the reader will assume the passages are wholly original to her.

Scenario 5:

You are writing a seven-page research paper on the history of origami.  You want to include information you found on the specific qualities of good origami paper.  While this information is new to you, it may well be common knowledge in Japan.  You decide to put in the information without citing a source.

Has plagiarism occurred?

I’d say no, but other teachers might say yes.  Why take a chance?  When you’re unsure, ask your teacher. Consult with a dissertation editor. Ask your dissertation editing service to run a report and/or flag any suspicious passages.  If you’re finishing the paper the night before and can’t ask, cite your source.  Nobody ever got sent to the principal for  being too careful with their quotes.

7 Tips for Doctoral Candidates to Get a Head Start on the Job Market

If you are at work on a dissertation or doing your dissertation editing, chances are you’ll be on the job market for your discipline at some point in the near future. How can you prepare now to make the job application process as easy as possible?

1) Update your CV

Include degrees, teaching experience, administrative and/or research experience, conferences attended, publications (scholarly and otherwise), scholarships and fellowships, committee work, certifications, and anything else relevant to your discipline. If any sections look a little light, work on adding some more items while you’re still in school. Start investigating ways to get your CV online. A dissertation editing service could be of help to you.

2) Publish

Follow calls for papers and submit anything you have that’s relevant. It takes an average of 2-4 years for an edited collection to come out, so the sooner you submit, the better. Don’t think your work isn’t ready. Leave it up to the editors of the journal or collection to decide that. Speaking of editors, be sure you find a good dissertation editor!

3) Prepare the people you will ask for recommendations

It’s probably best to wait until a few months before you start applying for jobs to ask for the recommendations, so they are as fresh as possible, but you can start grooming the recommenders now. Let them know you’ll be asking. Start to compile a handy list of highlights in your relationship for them to consult when the writing the letter.

4) Keep everything related to your teaching experience

You will need to scan and upload it to make it available to hiring committees.

5) Set up an account at Interfolio or a similar dossier service

Start uploading documents, such as a revised and polished writing sample (or a few for different types of jobs), your CV, certifications, student evaluations, peer observations, transcripts, teaching philosophy, and sample syllabi.

6) Find peers and mentors who can give you advice on your documents

The more feedback you can get, the better. People who have served on hiring committees are especially insightful. And again, a good dissertation editing company is almost a must.

7) Look into alternative careers

Hopefully, the current economic conditions will continue to improve, but if not, knowing about alternatives to the traditional tenure-track position will only empower you.

Launch: The Elevation Principle For Business Life

*If you’re visiting from Social Media Examiner, welcome! We are Edit 911, the finest online editing service in the world. Our PhD editors can make your writing shine! Our services include Book Editing, Dissertation Editing, Document Editing, Copy Editing, Essay Editing, Article Editing and more!

“Launch” Review:

In his innovative new book Launch, Michael Stelzner offers business owners and marketers some counterintuitive advice: forego traditional marketing messages in favor of valuable—and free—content. In fact, if you’re looking for marketing how-to’s, you’re going to have to wait until the final chapter of the book. Stelzner, the founder of SocialMediaExaminer.com—the number-one small business blog according to Technorati—calls this concept the “elevation principle,” and he argues it’s the best way to reach people who have grown deaf to the overabundance of marketing messages bombarding them on a daily basis. Stelzner offers step-by-step instructions based on his real-world experiences, as well as examples and analogies from daily life.

As a mom and a marketing professional, one analogy that resonated with me was when Stelzner compared marketing to busy customers to trying to brush a child’s hair: “There are two ways to get their hair brushed. Yelling, ‘Get your behind over here, right now!’ is one option. The other is to walk alongside them, brushing as they go on their merry way.” This brought back memories of working in direct mail years ago, dealing with low response rates as ads with hard sells were disposed of as “junk mail.” Stelzner reveals there is a better way. By offering real information that people actually want, you build trust and bring people to you—instead of ending up in the wastebasket.

Insights like these fill the book, making the message easy to apply to any business venture. Today I’m working with authors, and I encourage them to create blogs, share content, and contribute useful information in online communities, without pushing their books. Because, as Stelzner says, “by giving genuine gifts to your base and experts—without expecting anything in return—you’ll draw people to you in droves… and some will become loyal customers for life.”

–by Meredith Hale, Marketing Manager for Edit 911 & Baldwin Book Publishing