From Dissertation to Book

Brett sent this around to all the CCR postgrads. It is on the differences between writing a dissertation and turning a dissertation into a book. I found it interesting, because I think I am writing my thesis wrong. Hmmm…

Choose a topic, preferably one sufficiently narrow that no one else has elected precisely the same territory for exploration. Read everything written on the topic. Demonstrate, with less or greater subtlety, that you’ve actually done this reading via hundreds of endnotes, footnotes, and superscripts. Disagree with some aspect of received opinion about your topic. Document everything. Offer analyses that support your position. Although that may be the recipe for a dissertation, it isn’t the formula for a book.

Mel is currently turning her dissertation into a book, so the below extract is rather funny!

It’s hard to pick up a dissertation and hear its author’s voice. Dissertations don’t pipe up. Like the kid in the choir who’s afraid she cannot carry a tune and doesn’t want to be found out, the dissertation makes as small a sound as possible.

Anyway, my thesis has too much ‘voice’. I need to stamp out some of my voice and make it safe. And then there is this bit:

A dissertation demonstrates technical competence more often than an original theory or a genuine argument. This is, in fact, another of those open secrets of academic publishing: a book doesn’t actually need an original theory. It’s often more than enough to synthesize a range of ideas or perspectives, as long as one can do it in a way that creates a new perspective (your own) and provides the reader with further insights into an interesting problem.

Hmmm, I should have chosen a topic with more shit written about it.