Setting the Bar and Dissertations
May 31, 1941 high jumpers finally got the credit they deserve for the height they jumped over the bar, rather than simply clearing the bar. But, don’t expect to get the same treatment for your dissertation!…
“You’re setting the bar pretty low.”
“Oh, you’re setting the bar too high!”
What is this bar, anyway? How do you set it? And, what does all this have to do with your dissertation?
If you’ve ever watched the Olympic sport of high jump, you’ll see a physical bar that the athletes must jump over. “Setting the bar” refers to actually hanging a physical bar at a specific height between two tall poles. You’d know it was too high (for you) if you hit the bar and it came crashing down. Officials keep raising the bar throughout the contest, causing more and more athletes to fail until only one remained and was declared to be the winner.
Things changed (temporarily) on this day in 1941, when electric eye detectors were first used to measure high-jumping height attained. Judges could literally “set the bar” at a particular height, and then electronically measure the exact height jumped up to 3 inches above the bar. That meant they could determine the exact height a jumper acheived even when a lower height was set.
This practice never really caught on, though. Today, world-class jumpers still must clear a physical bar. And, they only get credit for the height to which the bar was set, not the height they actually jumped. The same is true for you and your dissertation.
“Setting the bar” for your dissertation is done by your school, your program, and your committee. Collectively, they determine the standards to which your dissertation must adhere in order for you to graduate.
Do not attempt to set the bar higher than needed. Many students set the bar too high, much higher than their dissertation committees require! If you make your project too complex, too difficult to complete (“setting the bar too high”), you’ll spend too much time practicing, training, and psyching yourself up, that you’ll never actually jump!
Remember, just like the high jumpers, you don’t get credit for jumping higher than the bar is set, just for clearing the bar. That’s how you should set your sights. That’s how you get your dissertation done. That’s how you become Dr. You!
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