October 6, 2007

Write your dissertation faster or I'll take away your funding

Graduate schools are always looking for ways to help their graduate students finish their dissertations in a timely manner. In a recent N.Y. Times article, "Exploring Ways to Shorten the Ascent to a Ph.D.," by Joseph Berger, one method is emphasized -- taking away the students' money.

What bothers me about this article is that he concludes that the main reason that Princeton supposedly has a faster rate of graduate is that the students' funding is cut off at five years. As a secondary note they mention that it "has developed a culture where professors keep after students." Hopefully, they do more than "keep after" students, although the example given is in the lab sciences, where the exigencies of grants demands that there is adequate oversight of progress.

I wish that graduate schools and departments would realize that it is the frequency and type of attention that advisors and departments give to graduate students that is an incredibly important factor in determining both time to degree and graduate student attrition. Barbara Lovitts documented this in her book Leaving the Ivory Tower.

The article mentions almost as an afterthought at the end that isolation in academia, especially in the non-lab sciences slows the progress of dissertation writing. This is the reason that I've developed the Academic Writing Club.

I don't mean to be critical of the article, because I'm glad to see the plight of graduate students being written about in the press. I just wish people understood the real factors that make dissertation writing such a painful, slow process.

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At 3:28 PM, Anonymous Dissertation Writing said...

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