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.