If you are including a Conclusions/Implications section in your dissertation make sure you really present conclusions and implications. Often the writer uses the conclusions/implications section to merely restate the research findings. Don’t waste my time. I’ve already read the findings and now, at the Conclusion/Implication section, I want you to help me understand what it all means. This is a key section of the dissertation and is sometimes best done after you’ve had a few days to step away from your research and allow yourself to put your research into perspective. If you do this you will no doubt be able to draw a variety of insights that help link your research to other areas. I usually think of conclusions/implications as the “So what” statements. In other words, what are the key ideas that we can draw from your study to apply to my areas of concern. 28. 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. 29. Now it’s time to write the last chapter. But what chapter is the last one? My perception is that the last chapter should be the first chapter. I don’t really mean this in the literal sense. Certainly you wrote Chapter One at the beginning of this whole process.
Now, at the end, it’s time to “rewrite” Chapter One. After you’ve had a chance to write your dissertation all the way to the end, the last thing you should do is turn back to Chapter One. 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. It seems to suggest some sort of war that you’re trying to win. 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 following ideas should help you keep the meeting on your agenda. 30. 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. 31. 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? 32. I hope you don’t try circulating chapters of your dissertation to your committee members as you are writing them.