Relevance of our Study

Relevance of our Study

Collaborative: Faculty at our graduate institution have remained at the forefront as

advocates of collaborative research at the dissertation level as far back as 1991, when

Hurlbert and Blitz called on others in the academy “to claim a place for collaborative

dissertations in our universities and in our profession” (p. 169). That same year the Council

of Graduate Schools (CGS) published a policy statement entitled “The role and nature of the

doctoral dissertation” as a result of a yearlong study of fifty doctoral programs in the United

States and Canada. The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) seems a helpful place to begin,

as they claim to be “the only national organization in the United States that is dedicated

solely to the advancement of graduate education and research” (“About CGS”, 2014, n.p.).

On collaboration, they affirmed that:

[The] consensus was that ‘original’ does not mean ‘in isolation.’ The idea for the

dissertation project and approach taken need not be developed solely by the

student. It is expected, however, that the student should develop and carry out a

research project relatively independently and be able to demonstrate to the

satisfaction of the advisory committee what portion of the research represents the

student’s own thinking… All dissertation research is collaborative in some sense.

(1991, p. 10)

Isolation, however, is typically expected and typically required. Our graduate dean was firm

in his belief that the university could not award two degrees for one document. We will

adhere by the views of the CGS, allowing our advisory committee to decide that we each

independently were able to demonstrate with authority our own thinking on the subject

within the field.

Laura: When two doctoral students from our program, Kami Day and Michele

Eodice, attempted to write a collaborative dissertation in 1997, faculty member C. Mark

Hurlbert offered to serve on their committee. In a note returned to them on their transcript, he

poses a challenge: “Wouldn’t it be interesting to research and report the sources of this

resistance so the profession could make its own determinations on these people and their

motives?” (as cited in Day & Eodice, 2001, p. 152). Coincidentally, Dr. Hurlbert’s class was

where we—Sabatino and Laura—first met and began collaborating at the doctoral level. As

researchers, we have also questioned this resistance to collaborative dissertations; we hoped

to research and report on the resistance while participating in the very act of the resistance—

collaborating on our dissertation (to the extent the academy will allow at this point) and

report the findings to inform possibilities for change. In the end, Day and Eodice were not

permitted to collaborate on their dissertation, and no one in our program has been permitted

to do so since their attempt—until now.

After completing just one chapter of the dissertation together, we felt we were able to

better understand and critique our collaborative processes in ways we could never have done

without actually working together. We also felt we were better able to understand and

critique some of the forms of resistance to the idea.

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