Bugs and Dissertations

On September 9, 1945, Grace Hopper discovered the first computer bug in history. Dissertation students must deal with bugs, too…

The term “bug” as it refers to computer programs derives from the first such bug ever found. Grace Hopper found this first bug—a moth shorting out a relay, which is removed with a pair of tweezers!

Since that day, computer programmers have referred to bits of computer code that make their programs behave differently than expected as bugs. Sometimes computer bugs are the result of simple mistakes. Often they occur when a computer program gets so big over time that newer parts don’t maintain compatibility with older parts.

When this happens in a dissertation project it’s called an alignment issue. A dissertation is a very repetitive document. As a dissertation author you are required to describe your problem, purpose, research questions, etc. over and over throughout the paper.

As you develop your dissertation over a number of weeks, or months, or (heaven forbid) years, your understanding of your project will change. You  research questions may change. Your topic itself may change.

Throughout this process newer sections of proposal will reflect your current thinking. Previously written sections will reflect older thinking. At some point your older thoughts will become obsolete in favor of newer thoughts.

When this happens you dissertation (or proposal) is said to be out of alignment. It’s important to be diligent at keeping your document in alignment. Whenever you change your project in a meaningful way, read through the entire thing carefully and make sure to update all sections to reflect your current understanding of your project.

It can be difficult to keep track of these changes over time. after spending so much time with your own writing, you can grow blind to the changes that have occurred over time.

It’s kind of like watching your own child grow. Spending time with him everyday, you don’t notice how he’s grown. But, at the next family gather, everyone comments on how much he’s grown.

Having an accountability partner or other support network to help you determine when you need to update older work can be the best protection against this type of familiarity blindness in your dissertation project.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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