Thursday, November 12, 2015

“I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know.”

The title of this post is a quote from a student who attended our “Writing a Dissertation in Education” Workshop of October 3rd.

We often hear positive comments after our workshops, either through email or in person. Typically, students report that the workshop they attended was very helpful.

So what is it that we do at our workshops?

Well, let me tell what we did at our fall workshops then alert you to some of the changes we have in store for the spring.

Typical Fall Workshop

This fall, we offered workshops for specific discipline areas and departments. Some focused on thesis preparation, and others focused on dissertation preparation. By “preparation,” we mean the actual construction of a document according to the appropriate Guidelines (link to “Thesis Format Guidelines”) found on our website. Content issues are a matter for students and their committees, of course.

A common core at our fall workshops was to walk students through the appropriate Guidelines (link to “Dissertation Format Guidelines”) in great detail, as the instructions do seem daunting at first. Yet these Guidelines are the publication conventions for theses and dissertations written at NIU, and they need to be followed closely.

We explained the rules, such as the correct placement of tables, and illustrated the rules by way of example, after which students better understood what they needed to do and felt more empowered to get it done. Hence, the positive reviews! (Not to boast, but here's another student quote: "Your presentation was fantastic and very much appreciated!")

We also directed students towards important areas on our website and the Graduate School’s website, such as where to find — and how to read — the Graduation Deadlines for Graduate Students.

Finally, we left time for hands-on manipulation of documents where we helped students address specific problems.

Workshop Issues

We found that many of these workshops were too extensive for some students to complete. In some cases, workshops were presented over two or three sessions. We also found that some disciplines require individualized information, while most do not. So in the spring, we are changing things up!

Spring Ahead! 

In 2016, we will split the sessions into A) ones that mainly present and cover necessary material, and B) ones in which students work right then and there on the formatting of their documents.

A) Presentations

Our presentations will be divided into “Thesis Requirements” and “Dissertation Requirements,” and anyone in any discipline can attend either as appropriate to their degree. Each will last approximately 75 minutes and will finish in one sitting. We will still offer a couple discipline-specific sessions, but our general presentations will give all writers a wealth of information in short order.

B) Workshops

Our workshops, which will be held on different dates than the presentations, will address specific formatting issues, such as problems that arise with tables, figures, and pagination. During these workshops, students need to bring their document on a laptop so they can implement format changes. These two-hour long sessions are open to writers of both theses and dissertations. They will be particularly helpful for those nearing their graduation semester. And, the first one is already scheduled!

Schedule of Events

You will find the dates, times, and locations of all of our events through our website (click Workshops and Support) or through NIU’s Events Calendar, where you can also subscribe to our RSS feed “Thesis-Workshops.” We will be listing more soon!

For any questions, you can always call us at (815) 753- 9405 or email us at

Finally, one last student quote: "I will be encouraging all of my peers to attend your workshop in the future." We hope you'll take this student's advice, and we'll see you at one of our happenings this spring! 

No comments:

Post a Comment