Saturday, September 10, 2011

On prospectus

Krathwohl, D. R., & Smith, N. L. (2005). How to prepare a dissertation proposal: Suggestions for students in education and the social and behavioral sciences. New York: Syracuse University Press.

I just finished reading the second and third chapters of this book, which is about the functions of dissertation proposals. The authors list several functions: justification, work plan, evidence of ability, request for commitment, contract, evaluative criteria, and partial dissertation draft. This list reminded me of my unease with various genre approaches that focus on the purpose of texts as a criteria for distinguishing different genres, as if there is one purpose for each genre and these purposes are distinct for each genre or unique to a specific genre. As the functions of dissertation proposals given in this book suggests the issue of purpose if much more complicated than it looks and it is more realistic to talk about a constellation of purposes or functions.
Of course, as a person that has to write a dissertation proposal this long list of functions is a little bit intimidating. I guess these functions can be used as a check list at the end of the process when revising the prospectus but the pressing question for me is how am I going to satisfy all these criteria. To complicate matters even more, my study is going to be an exploratory and emergent one, which means I cannot write  my prospectus as specific as a prospectus for an empirical study that employs a pre-specified research design. (I wonder if this has something to do with the historical development of this genre.) The authors of the book suggest using earlier research and conducting a pilot study in order to anticipate and avoid potential problems that might arise as a result of intrinsically unstructured nature of this kind of research. Perhaps I can focus on the questions, who, where, what, how, and when in my prospectus.  

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