Getting to the Finish Line: New Directions for the Dissertation Process (edited collection)

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Modern Languages Association (under consideration)
contact email: 

We invite contributions to a collection tentatively titled Getting to the Finish Line: New Directions for the Dissertation Process. 

As the tenure-track job market for academics continues to shrink, alternative formats to the traditional dissertation are becoming desirable, if not necessary. This idea is not new: in 2014 the Modern Language Association recommended in a report from the Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language and Literature that PhD-granting programs “reimagine the dissertation” (2) by “expand[ing] the spectrum of forms the dissertation may take” (14). More recently, Lueck and Boehm (2019) envision a more process-focused dissertation in which the doctoral candidate and committee members “learn to think of the ways in which their knowledge and research skills could contribute to the world outside academe” (148-49). 

This collection will explore the practical and theoretical underpinnings of dissertations that look like something other than a single-authored scholarly monograph, exploring both the process and product of the dissertation as it moves into new conceptualizations. We aim to outline non-traditional forms of dissertations (such as serialized podcasts, graphic narrative approaches, public writing, and others) that have been successfully completed or that are in process. 

We invite essays by recent grads, or late-stage graduate students, who completed/are completing non-traditional dissertation projects, as well as from their faculty advisors. Recent graduates may critically reflect on their writing and research processes, making visible lines of inquiry in projects that some may dismiss for not fulfilling the requirements of the traditional proto-book manuscript. Faculty, advisors, and administrators who support students may describe and theorize the processes of inquiry and writing inherent in a dissertation-length project so that they become more readily translated to work in non-tenure-track positions within academia and for positions outside the academy. Program directors and administrators may provide possible frameworks for evaluating these new forms of the dissertation - which may be interdisciplinary and/or collaborative in nature - and consider how external stakeholders may be part of the evaluation process. 

We seek theoretical and practical essays by single or multiple authors that address issues such as: 

  • the history of the dissertation and how it evolved

  • how dissertations are evaluated and how they are valued

  • students’ agency in the dissertation process

  • what learning objectives/outcomes for writing a dissertation are

  • the role of collaboration in the dissertation process (particularly interdisciplinary)

  • how rigor is defined in scholarly work

  • how the form and context of the dissertation affect time to completion

  • what success looks like post-PhD

  • theorization of the term “alt-ac” 

  • the advantages and pressures of working full time while dissertating

  • using internships or community-based learning as part of the dissertation process

  • developing teaching materials connected to the dissertation

  • expressing arts-based or autoethnographic methods

  • creative writing/translation works

The intended audience for this volume is multiple, including graduate program administrators, advisors, and graduate students seeking to craft a dissertation that fulfills rigorous research requirements while also moving into new mediums and/or modes of writing. This volume is under development with the Modern Languages Association.

We invite authors from diverse backgrounds and from across humanities fields to submit proposals to this project by May 15, 2021. Please include:

A 300-word abstract

A current CV and 100-word bio

Send submissions to: