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:
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.