Graduate Program

Dissertation Writing Seminar

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Monday - 1:10 p.m.
MU 305

Dissertation Writing Seminar

Stacy Klein

The Writing Seminar is open to advanced graduate students who are at the dissertation stage. The goal of the seminar is to help students develop the conceptual tools for writing a first-rate dissertation, as well as the practical skills for getting it done in a timely fashion. Participants are expected to write regularly and to share what they have written. We will discuss arguments and how to put them together, as well as strategies for completing individual chapters while developing the broader arc of one’s project. The primary text for the course will be the writing produced by seminar members. Weekly meetings are intended to provide support, guidance, and motivation for making sustained progress on the dissertation. Participants will also be expected to provide thoughtful, constructive responses to the work of others. Please come to the first class meeting with a brief (no more than 250 word) paragraph describing an issue or question that your project raises as well as some of the texts that you will use to address it. Please also have ready a pdf file of the introduction to a book you especially admire.

Sakai Materials (located in the “Resources” section of the course website)

            “Questions for Book Introductions”

            Sample introductions (Bynum, Lopez, Yosef, Edwards)

            In the folder “Writing Advice”:

            Excerpts from Joan Bolker, Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day

            Excerpts from William Germano, From Dissertation to Book

            Excerpts from Peg Boyle Single, Demystifying Dissertation Writing

            Excerpts from Gregory Semenza, Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century

            Excerpts from Eric Hayot, The Elements of Academic Style


  1. Regular attendance and participation. If you miss a session, please write up brief responses to the works under discussion that day and send them to the authors, cc’ed to me.
  2. Roughly 40-50 pages of new writing, which you should present in several installments; please note this is a ballpark length estimate, not a fixed target. For example, you might present an initial 15-page paper that represents the start of a first chapter, and then, later on in the semester, a fuller draft of the chapter in which you’ve fleshed out your thinking and readings. Or you might present the beginnings of two different chapters, along with some additional writing that builds on your dissertation prospectus. You should aim to present as much new work as possible so as to maximize the amount of feedback you get on fresh work. You must upload your writing installment to the Sakai site by 12 noon on the Wednesday before it’s scheduled to be discussed. Each student can expect approximately 60-75 minutes of discussion on their drafts, although in some cases we’ll need less time than that.
  3. A pdf version of the introductory chapter to a book that you admire, due the first week of the semester; and a 250-word description of an issue or problem that your dissertation raises, along with some of the texts that you will use to address it, also due that week.
  4. Brief oral presentations in which you introduce the assigned readings and/or your introductory book chapter.