Ford and Dissertations
July 30, 1863 marked the birth of Henry Ford, who made automobile ownership a reality for all Americans. And, could help make graduation a reality for all dissertation students…
Henry Ford’s great contribution was not the Ford Motor Company, although it is a Fortune 500 Top 10, with well over $100 billion in revenues. Instead, his great contribution was incorporating the moving assembly line into the mass production of complex products.
Model T cars were assembled by large teams of workers where each person was responsible for a single, small task. No need for craftsmen; anyone could be trained to complete the simple task required for each station.
You should be using the same strategy to complete your dissertation. Dissertation committees don’t want uniquely crafted works. They want stamped-out, cookie-cutter, assembly-line manufactured products. The latter is much easier to review, and approve!
Each dissertation consists of a number of specific parts. No, you can’t have a large team complete each part of the dissertation for you. But, you can understand each part as the simple task that it is and complete each task with a minimum of effort and movement.
Many schools provide their students with templates and rubrics. They effectively turn the dissertation into a giant fill-in-the-blank exercise with instructions for how to complete each part.
Even schools that don’t explicitly provide their students with these tools do provide another option. All dissertations are published. And, all doctoral students have access to these published works through their schools’ libraries.
If you are not given actual templates for completing your dissertation, you should absolutely download a handful of dissertations to use as examples.
You should choose dissertations from your university, from your department.
Make sure that any dissertations you consult were published recently (within the past year or two).
Choose dissertations that mimic as closely as possible your research design.
Find quantitative studies if you will be surveying participants. Find studies that utilize the same statistical analyses as possible.
If you will be completing a case study, find case studies to emulate. If you will be conducting a phenomenological study, collect other phenomenologies to reference.
And, for the ultimate in explemar dissertations, bonus points if you can locate studies that meet the aforementioned criteria and were chaired by your dissertation committee chair!
Once you have a small collection of dissertations, compare their tables of contents. Notice which sections at least three dissertations have in common. You’ll want to be sure to include these sections in your own work.
In practice, you will find that tables of contents are largely identical across most dissertations. So, you’re off to a great start… You already have a Table of Contents!
Now, you want to pick a section of the dissertation and review each exemplar study’s contribution. What story is the author trying to tell? What story should you tell regarding your own study?
You can proceed like this, section by section, through the the entire dissertation. There’s no high art, here. Only copying the efforts of those who came before you and adjusting as needed.