A call for naïve readers

  • Posted on: 21 July 2015
  • By: benfell

Very early this morning, I finished writing the initial draft of the analysis chapters of my dissertation. I expect to begin writing the conclusion later today.

That means I am very near the point where I could use some naïve readers to review the manuscript. I already have my mother on board for this, and with her decades of writing experience she will no doubt have some improvements to suggest. But she can't catch everything.

I should explain how the process works from here, at least as I understand it. Once I actually have a first draft, I submit it to my committee chair. I expect the back-and-forth with him to last throughout Fall semester. He will suggest revisions and I will either make those revisions or deal with them in other ways.

Once my committee chair thinks I'm ready to defend the dissertation, we schedule a conference call with my committee, where I 'defend' the dissertation. This is the big step. In truth, it is unlikely my committee chair would suggest I move to a defense unless he is confident the committee will approve the dissertation, but the outcome of this conference call determines whether I will get to start calling myself 'Doctor Benfell.'

However, my degree will still not be in hand. The committee will suggest revisions and it will only be after those are complete and the university library accepts the dissertation for publication that I will actually graduate and get the diploma to hang on my wall that says I'm a "Doctor of Philosophy." At this point, I'm pretty confident of the outcome, but it isn't until I survive the defense that most folks in my position would say that the climb is over and I've reached the downhill.

Some of you, my friends, can help my committee and me to make this a better dissertation. The bonus is you'll have an early look at the latest version of what I'm talking about when I talk about all those tendencies of conservatism. Actually, some of this is already on line, but you'll see how these tendencies actually can be applied in understanding conservative views—in this case, on undocumented migration.

There aren't any particular qualifications for doing this. In general, you should be able to read, you should be intelligent, and you need to be willing to slog through some really dry stuff. Well, I hope it's not too dry, but there are large chunks of the dissertation that are more required than insightful for the general reader. The casual reader would probably only be interested in chapter one, the introduction; chapter four, where I cover recurring issues; maybe some of chapters five through eleven, where I report my analyses of conservative articles; and chapter twelve, which I'm about to start writing today, and which is the conclusion.

You need to have access to Microsoft Word and I wouldn't expect an old and crufty version to work well. Yes, I hate Word too, especially after fighting with it to get this dissertation formatted even as correctly according to the Saybrook specification as it is—and no, it still isn't completely right. But it's the word processor the school and my committee expects to work with and is capable of producing a document that is at least closer to the Saybrook specification than is LibreOffice.

You also need to understand that there are those two cycles of revision that will occur after you get through it, so even if I accept your suggestions, they may disappear between then and publication.

Finally, you need to agree not to share the document. It will ultimately be published and available on line through databases at any research library (that are rarely looked at, but still), and I expect to publish it on my web site.

But what you can hopefully do is help make the dissertation a better dissertation and ease the load on my committee. They're pretty much incommunicado for the summer, so you'll also be helping speed the process along.

If you're interested, e-mail me. I'll need your email address to share it with you.