How Do We Teach the Dissertation?
6 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 8, 2013
Most graduate programs in the U.S. consist of two parts: the public part and the clandestine part. The public portion is pretty common everywhere (a certain number of courses and credits, reading lists, comprehensive exam preparation, etc.). The clandestine half is announced, but seldom elaborated in the form of an explicit pedagogy. This part of the program is the little matter of the MA thesis or PhD dissertation. Suddenly, graduate work veers away from the tight scrutiny and chronology of coursework and strikes out for an unknown destination. When it comes to navigating the clandestine program, advising is generally uneven and sometimes nonexistent.
The same situation can be found in Brazil, a nation with an extensive system of graduate program evaluation and accreditation in all sciences. Since most Political Science graduate programs in Brazil have their roots in American experience, we face some common questions: Are we teaching our students how to confront the dissertation? If not, should we? If so, how should we?
This paper analyzes the clandestine graduate program in light of U.S. and Brazilian literature and experience. As an alternative, a practical course design used for 20 years with senior undergraduate and MA/PhD students in Brazil is presented and analyzed.
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