INTRODUCTION

INTRODUCTION

Studies and Research to present our proposal for a collaborative dissertation that studies the

nature of and resistance to collaborative dissertations in the field of composition. The

audience for our presentation included our Dean of Graduate Studies, the Assistant Dean, the

Assistant Dean for Administration, and a member of our proposed dissertation committee. In

our proposal we advocated for a fully collaborative process of researching and writing all

five chapters of the dissertation. We proposed a dialogic process where we joined together as

equal partners in constructing a dissertation—as opposed to a hierarchal approach that

delineated a lead author who held separate and clearly defined responsibilities that differed

from the secondary author in the dissertating process. Ultimately, we posited that to study the

phenomenon of collaborative dissertating, we should work together through each chapter,

join together for a shared three-chapter defense, and submit one dissertation (one text) with

both of our names listed in a circle to reinforce the social nature of writing as well as to resist

the stereotype of one author toiling away in a garret writing the dissertation alone.

That said, when we presented our proposal to our graduate dean, we soon discovered

what Lunsford meant by the “some of the problems attendant on continuing to try to fit the

square peg of multiple, polyvocal activity into the round hole of singular ‘authorship’” (1999,

i Throughout, “we” refers to Laura Mangini and Sabatino Mangini— and co-authors of this

p. 529). We realized that our dean’s understanding of a “collaborative dissertation” consisted

of us collaborating during the research—and then going our separate ways to each write a

solo-authored piece, to write two dissertations based on the same research. To us, however,

so much of what we wanted to explore involved studying the process of working with

another person to research, write, defend, and publish a dissertation. We wanted to explore

how that dynamic would impact our work; this goal seemed impossible to accomplish

without working collaboratively. Our notion of a collaborative dissertation included

researching, brainstorming, workshopping, writing, revising, and defending one study and

one text, together.

In the months that followed our proposal to the dean of the graduate school, we

tentatively negotiated the following approach with the graduate school and our dissertation

chair: we would be required to write two dissertations that were based on our collaboratively

constructed research. Initially, this meant that those two dissertations would be a combination

of two and one-half solo-authored chapters and two and one-half collaborative and coauthored

chapters. While our research would fall under our notion of “collaborative,” the

actual writing of the dissertation would be a hybrid of collaborative and solo-authored. We

have since negotiated a middle ground after presenting our proposal for our vision of a

collaborative dissertation that the graduate school has agreed upon. Although we are still

required to write two separate dissertation texts—with at least half of the writing being

labeled as independent—we will collaborate throughout all five chapters of the dissertation

and label our “solo-authored” contributions within the text of our “independent”

dissertations. We will also have solo-authored intertexts following each chapter. To further

distinguish our separate dissertation texts, Sabatino will use critical pedagogy as his

theoretical perspective to explore his position as a male researcher who is critiquing

composition’s resistance to collaborative dissertations; whereas, Laura, as a female

researcher, will use feminist theory to inform her inquiry into the same resistance. In this

way, we will be studying our own situated and ideological positions within the research

while also problematizing the situations and ideologies of other stakeholders in composition

dissertation research.

With this approach in mind, what follows is a dissertation text that is both

collaborative and solo-authored, what we later explicate as the groundwork for what we are

calling a cooperative dissertation. Later in this chapter, we define the terms collaborative,

solo-authored, and cooperative dissertation. The solo-authored sections comprise more than

60 percent of our individually submitted dissertations. Each written portion is labeled in one

of three ways: (a) Sabatino, (b) Laura, (c) Collaborative2. In this way, our dissertation

presents three voices from three researchers, two independent voices (albeit in constant

dialogue with one another throughout the composing process) and a third collaborative voice

we are constructing as co-researchers who are working together within a space of qualitative

inquiry that contests and constructs knowledge. We hope this third voice will reinforce the

notion of a multivocal, collaborative conversation being shared between researchers. In

addition, the appendices are co-constructed.

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