Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Reviewing Doctoral Symposium submissions

I just reviewed a whole pile of submissions to a doctoral symposium. These are 4-page summaries of the research the students propose to undertake for their dissertations. Students could be at any stage of their Ph.D.

I have some general advice for students who are writing similar papers.

* The literature review should be at most 25% of the paper, including the reference list at the end. The purpose of the literature review is to stake out the positions that you are in conversation with. It should not be the bulk of your paper. I'd much rather find out what you are thinking. If you can't come up with at least two pages (or 50% of the document) about your own research, it might be a bit premature to get feedback from outside your lab.

* Don't use bullet points to fill space or otherwise make up for your lack of content. Please write in proper paragraphs and well-formed prose. Your research statement should have a flow and an argument. It should be more than just a pile of points, which is what a series of bullets is.

Hopefully these observations will be helpful for other students who are writing for Doctoral Symposiums or PhD Forums elsewhere.

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