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Thoughts about unusual dissertation format?


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Hello fellow grads,

I'm working on dissertation research (humanities) and have been thinking creatively about my dissertation project. For example, I am interested in incorporating an unusual use of images, or perhaps having the structure be more episodic than the traditional format, etc. Both my project and my proclivities seem to lend themselves to such an approach.

However, I am wondering how much opposition I might encounter from advisors (who I would say are not generally conservative). I have not discussed this with them yet because I feel my case for such an approach will be stronger if I have a well-conceived example to support it (perhaps one full chapter).

I wonder if any of you have encountered either writing about creative dissertation formats, or any actual non-traditional dissertation projects? I'd like to know if this is something that has been argued for effectively by other grads already.

Thank you for your thoughts!

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I've seen some stuff about "rethinking the dissertation", but most of that has focused on entire departments that are changing their requirements. A lot of it centers around some flavor of 'digital humanities' (...for your particular value of digital humanities, whatever that may be). Probably the MLA blog archives would be a good place to search. :)

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I am not actually sure what you are talking about when you say an "unusual use of images". In my MSc thesis, I included about 12 MPEG files (i.e. movies). They weren't especially creative though -- it was just an animation of plots to show the motion and evolution of particles. The school allowed for uploading supplementary files (including movie, audio, and many other formats) for theses so I took advantage of that. In my thesis text, I provided a couple of still frames as a placeholder and a note for the thesis committee to go online to view the movie. However, it turns out that none of them (other than my supervisor) actually did that (I asked them after the defense). I think a lot of schools now allow for more than just a PDF thesis submission.

I don't know if that's what you were looking for though!

As for the "episodic" nature, a lot of schools will also accept "manuscript" theses instead of "traditional" theses. These theses (lol) are usually something like 3 peer reviewed paper published by the student that are somewhat related "stapled" together and handed in. Sometimes you need to write a intro/summary wrapper to make it flow a bit better. So, if a student did e.g. 3 loosely connected projects, studies, or experiments, it might be able to write a thesis in this way.

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