Developing Quality Dissertations in the Sciences: A Graduate Student's Guide to Achieving Excellence

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Stylus Publishing, LLC., Dec 1, 2008 - Education - 40 pages
This is one of three short booklets designed to be given to graduate students as they begin their studies.

They explain the purposes of the dissertation and the criteria by which it will be assessed. They help students understand the context of their course work; the need to take an active role in shaping their studies; and the importance of thinking ahead about the components of the dissertation and the quality of scholarship they will need to demonstrate.

These booklets are intended to support the dissertation research and writing process by providing faculty and advisors with guidelines for setting clear expectations for student performance, and with a model for helping students produce the desired quality of work.

They encourage dialogue between faculty and students about the quality of the components of their dissertation project. They include rubrics that students can use to self-assess their work and that can aid faculty in providing focused feedback.

Setting explicit targets and benchmarks of excellence of the sort advocated in these booklets will enable departments and universities to respond to demands for accountability with clear criteria for, and evidence of, success; and will raise the overall quality of student performance.

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Useful suggestions for the whole process of finishing a dissertation


1 Identifying the Purpose of the Dissertation
2 Understanding Originality and Significance
3 Aiming for Excellence in the Dissertation
4 Maintaining Consistent Quality Within the Dissertation
5 Achieving Excellence
Appendix A Tasks of the Science Engineering and Mathematics Dissertation
Appendix B Advice for Writing a Science Dissertation
About the Study

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About the author (2008)

Barbara E. Lovitts is an independent higher education researcher. She was formerly Senior Program Officer in the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education at the National Academy of Engineering, and is the author of Leaving the Ivory Tower: The Causes and Consequences of Departure from Doctoral Study. She has worked at the University of Maryland, the American Institutes for Research, the National Science Foundation, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Ellen L. Wert , a former a program officer at The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a freelance writer and editor who has been involved with national efforts to improve U.S. graduate education for nearly two decades, including Preparing Future Faculty, the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate. and the Survey on Doctoral Education and Career Preparation. Past clients include the American Association for Higher Education, The Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Education Policy Institute

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