Friday, June 17, 2016

In the News (3)

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across the strangest article about dissertations and the Russian black market. After reading the piece, I knew that it was time for another installment of graduate degrees in the news!

"The Craziest Black Market in Russia" by Leon Neyfakh (click here)

Last year, a prominent member of President Putin's United Russia party was accused of plagiarizing his dissertation. Neyfakh comments that "more than 1,000 high-achieving , well-heeled Russians . . . have recently been caught plagiarizing large parts of their dissertations." And the majority of these individuals . . . are politicians!!

Apparently, these individuals -- politicians, judges, doctors, police officials!! -- are paying ghost writers to write their dissertation for them. In some cases, the ghost writer copies and pastes someone else's work, passing it off as an original piece of research, and then hands it off to the person who hired them. Neyfakh reports on a number of companies advertising their services as dissertation ghost writers. Apparently, it is big business.

A volunteer organization known as Dissernet is responsible for exposing instances of high-profile plagiarism. Thus far, the group has uncovered 5,600 cases of suspected plagiarism. Consequently, Dissernet has been the target of reprisal by the individuals accused of plagiarism.

The article is brilliant. You might think that this is a spoof, but it is not. Published in Slate -- not The Onion -- I started off shocked while reading, but by the end I was laughing my head off. This is perfect beach reading.

"PhDs Embrace Alternative Dissertations" by Vimal Patel (click here)

In 2014, Nick Sousanis successfully defended his dissertation on visual thinking at Columbia University. The remarkable aspect of this story has to do with the fact that Sousanis wrote his dissertation in the format of a comic book. According to Patel's article,

"For a variety of reasons, humanities programs at many colleges have started to allow dissertation formats to veer from the traditional book-length monograph. These projects have taken the form of a suite of three or more papers, a documentary, an interactive analysis of a text, or even a comic book."

Despite this fact, many departmental hiring committees continue to prefer candidates who write traditional dissertations. They are considered the "gold standard" for tenure track teaching jobs. However, for graduate students not interested in pursuing work in academia, an alternative dissertation may be ideal. For instance, Jesse Merandy, a Ph.D. candidate in English, is creating a "game for mobile devices that tells users about the life and work of Walt Whitman as they walk Brooklyn Heights, where the poet lived." His project proved invaluable in landing a job helping professors and students with digital projects.

I was fascinated by this discussion of alternative dissertations and started to wonder what a non-traditional dissertation might look like in fields other than the humanities. Also, Patel includes an invaluable piece of advice for graduate students -- speak with your thesis or dissertation director about your career interests before you start writing your thesis or dissertation. Your career hopes may be an important factor when deciding to write a traditional or non-traditional thesis or dissertation. 

Thursday, June 9, 2016

UPDATE: June 9, 2016 meeting of Write Place, Write Time

A quick update:

Tonight's meeting of the NIU Thesis office sponsored writing group -- Write Place, Write Time -- has been postponed. We will not be able to meet this evening (Thursday, June 9, 2016) due to abridged library hours during the interim between the end of the Spring 2016 semester and the official start of the Summer 2016 semester.

Tonight's writing group has been rescheduled for Thursday, June 16, 2016. As per usual, we will meet in Founders Library from 6pm to 9pm in room 454.

The July 14, 2016 meeting of Write Place, Write Time will meet as regularly scheduled.

Please watch for updates concerning the August 11, 2016 meeting.

I apologize for the inconvenience. I hope that you will be able to make it to next week's session.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Submission Process – Upcoming Informational Presentations

“Everything is ready to go, and I believe the formatting is perfect. I should get a degree just for that – haha!” – quotation from an NIU graduate student.

We agree with this student’s sentiment: getting a thesis or dissertation ready for submission can be a degree-worthy task! And for some of us, the same goes for submitting the thesis or dissertation electronically (at which point the document becomes an Electronic Thesis/Dissertation, or ETD).

For instance, did you know that your thesis or dissertation must be submitted with keywords for indexing? Do you know how to embed all fonts into your document before submitting to Proquest? Do you know who or what ProQuest is and does? Are you aware of your embargo options and when to use them? Are you planning to order bound copies of your project when you submit?

You must manage those tasks or choices as well as a few others when submitting your ETD. Knowing a little about the process before submitting really helps!

Our website offers detailed instructions about exactly what to do before, during, and after submission of your ETD. 

ProQuest, NIU's publishing partner for theses and dissertations, also includes many informative resources to help you through the steps of submission.

Even after looking through these materials, however, many still have questions about submitting their ETD. Carolyn Law, our Thesis Office Advisor, will demystify the entire process in our upcoming presentations, open to all NIU thesis and dissertation writers:

  • The first session of “Demystifying the Submission Process” is Wednesday, June 8, from 2 – 4 PM in Founders Library room 297.
  • The second session (same presentation – no need to attend both) is Wednesday, June 15, from 6 – 8 PM in Wirtz Hall, room 104.

We still have availability for either session, but we do ask that you register via email at – please always include the name of the presentation and the date you wish to attend in any registration message.

If you can attend one of these sessions, I bet you'll feel much more comfortable with the process of submitting. If you are unable to attend, we will offer these presentations again in the fall. As you know, you may always contact your director or the Thesis Office for help as well. We hope to see you soon!