ELT Dissertations – A New Blog Project

19 Sep

My own dissertation experience was a particularly stressful one.  In effect I wrote two dissertations:  (a) the one I wanted to write and which I thought was going well and (b) the one my supervisor wanted me to write.  Both required an inordinate amount of time and effort, though the time and effort that went into the second one got squeezed into a much shorter time period than the first.  Neither dissertation has had a very wide readership – my wife read through the first manuscript and made some useful suggestions.  Then my supervisor read it and suggested a few more … “fundamental” changes.  I didn’t have time for my wife to read the second dissertation and in the end only I, my supervisor and the second marker know what’s in it.

Does any of that sound familiar?

The stress is probably familiar to just about every dissertation writer everywhere – a google image search for “dissertation” throws up the “related categories” of:  Hell / I Hate / Stress / Panic and… Writing.

What annoys me most though is that of the three people who have read my dissertation, only one of them is that bothered about what was actually in it.  Obviously I’m making a big assumption on the part of my supervisor and my marker – if I do them a disservice then I apologise, but I suspect that for them, my dissertation is more about the demonstration of academic acuity than it is about the research area I investigated.  Not that my dissertation was particularly ground breaking in the topic area or scope of research, but still…

Equally, research only progresses by the distribution, reading, replication and critiquing of pre-existing work.  If a large proportion of that work never gets disseminated, then how can we progress?  You can’t build anything meaningful if someone keeps hiding all the bricks.  Dogme ELT has become an area of interest for many people, I know of at least four dissertations that have been written on the subject by different people around the world – it’s fair to say there’s a degree of repetition amongst them and it’s not their fault – they were unaware of each other’s efforts and therefore were unable to build on what had gone before.

Plus, there are so many arguments about what works and what doesn’t work, that any evidence which might help throw a bit of light on why something works (or not as the case may be) is surely to be welcomed?  Yet it seems as though much of it is doomed to be ignored.

And it shouldn’t be.  The excellent “Evidence Based EFL” fights a lonely corner critiquing the fads and trends and demanding at least some form of evidence for what many in the profession take for granted.  Russell Willis in ELTNews makes a convincing case for why “We need Evidence-Based ELT“.  We are generating a substantial amount of research into ELT on an annual basis while it might not provide the big answers to the big questions, it all helps chip away at the cliff of “what we don’t know”.

So it seems sensible to suggest that there should be a resource, freely available to all, where any interested parties can find the results of academic work in ELT – in short that there should be a home for all those dissertations that might not otherwise gain the readership that they deserve.

And here it is:

http://eltdissertation.wordpress.com/about/

I’m keen to add as many dissertations as possible, so if you have one that you would like to share, or if you know someone who would, then please tell them about the site.

dissertation

Thank you!

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6 Responses to “ELT Dissertations – A New Blog Project”

  1. Sophia Mavridi Thursday 19 September 2013 at 14:52 #

    Hi David,

    It sounds like a great project. I’m in the process of writing my own dissertation and I know exactly what you mean. Just a question: how will you ensure your very well-intentioned project won’t be used as a paper mill by some people? I’m currently exploring digital ethics for the purpose of my own paper and as you may know, digital plagiarism is sadly quite common.

    Best,

    Sophia

    • David Petrie Thursday 19 September 2013 at 15:48 #

      Hi Sophia,

      I think most people who are involved in doing a MA in ELT (or related areas) are probably genuinely interested in the areas they have chosen to investigate for their dissertation – maybe I’m extrapolating too much from my own experience – but the dissertation is a key way of developing as a practitioner and allowing you to become more knowledgeable and more competent in your chosen specialization. In other words I guess I had assumed that the reasons why people do postgraduate ELT degrees tend to predicate against plagiarism.

      But I accept that this maybe an idealistic view! Perhaps I should make a point of contacting the various online plagiarism checkers and submitting the site to them for addition to their databases.

      And there’s always the off chance that by putting more dissertations in the public arena it will increase the chance of plagiarism being spotted – if you read six dissertations on pronunciation, for example, and spot similarities between two of them, then these similarities are more likely to come to light?

      Do you have any additional advice?

      All the best,
      David

      • Sophia Mavridi (@SophiaMav) Friday 20 September 2013 at 15:17 #

        Hi David,

        Unfortunately the more I explore the topic the more I discover that students don’t have monopoly on plagiarism; it is considered to be quite common in many fields including researchers and academics. Having said that, I do believe sharing and publishing is a good thing, we just need to be aware of its “side-effects” and maybe protect our work as much as we can.

        I don’t think there are definite answers to your question, at least I haven’t found them yet. I feel however that whatever we publish online should be accompanied with some kind of licence (official copyright notice © or even creative commons). This does not really protect your work from those who want to plagiarise nor does it grant you any additional rights. However, it does remind the reader this is your intellectual property and might serve as a deterrent.

        I also think you should publish an explicit permission policy (on a separate page maybe?) stating what people can or can’t do with the content on your site.

        Finally, I think it is important that you publish how you would like your work to be cited eg “Please, cite this paper as: Brown (2012)……”. Don’t know about you but I often find sources online that I want to use, paraphrase or quote and I struggle to figure out how to give attribution. It always helps if it’s already there for someone to use.

        Hope this helps,

        Good luck with your project,

        Sophia

  2. Alannah Fitzgerald Sunday 22 September 2013 at 22:46 #

    Interesting post, David. The more we advocate for evidence-based ELT practices in teaching, research and resources development the better.

    Just curious but doesn’t your university already have an open access archive for peer reviewed dissertation and thesis writing? Check with your library as this is pretty standard fare nowadays. That’s how most postgraduate students and academic faculty are sharing their work through what’s known as Green Open Access archiving, including pre-publications of journal articles that are published in their final copy-editied formats as All Rights Reserved.

    Just to clear up a point made in the comments that often gets confused about licensing. All creative commons attribution licenses (that is the main six – starting with CC-BY and the more restricted ones) reserve your copyright as original author unless you opt to put your creative works into the public domain as CC-zero.

    And, I do believe you’re safe with plagiarism checkers picking up web-based duplication of your work. Of course, universities have these services at the ready but this won’t stop someone from plagiarising your work outside of well-resourced domains. However, if someone tried to gain from your work commercially through publication (e.g. in a course book) then you would have cause to follow things up. But quite often things are ‘borrowed’ e.g. for uses in educational settings – teaching/training etc – and this doesn’t count as commercial use in the way that say a publisher taking your work forward as a derivative work would.

    Having said all of the above, once I finish my thesis I’ll be only too happy for someone to lift whatever appeals to re-use in their teaching or training or to develop further research derivatives from. I am all for sharing because, as you rightly point out, often dissertations/theses are only read by your supervisor and your wife/mother. IRIS (based at York University) is another open service for sharing second language peer-reviewed research instruments which is where I’ll be sharing mine under a CC-BY or CC-BY-NC licence depending on the rights of any third party material I may or may not be using therein.

    All the best,

    Alannah

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. ELT Dissertations - A New Blog Project | Teache... - Thursday 19 September 2013

    […] My own dissertation experience was a particularly stressful one. In effect I wrote two dissertations: (a) the one I wanted to write and which I thought was going well and (b) the one my superviso…  […]

  2. ELT Dissertations - A New Blog Project | Teachi... - Friday 20 September 2013

    […] My own dissertation experience was a particularly stressful one. In effect I wrote two dissertations: (a) the one I wanted to write and which I thought was going well and (b) the one my superviso…  […]

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