Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Second Life of the Dissertation

by Eva Lantsoght, PhD Talk:

The day I received my dissertation as a printed and published document, I considered it a final, finished entity of writing. I thought of it as a milestone, or even a giant monument in my life.

And for a few months, it felt like a finished entity indeed.

But then things changed. As I started working on my papers, I started working with the dissertation again. I started to look up in my dissertation how I precisely did certain things, and I started to look up my experimental data.

My dissertation became a tool. It is on my desk, and I use it often.

And now that I am using it often, I am aware of the flaws in my work. There are theoretical elements that I am refining. There are typing errors. There are printing errors (a few rows of the overview table of my experiments is missing, and I didn't notice that in the print proof). I came to realize that my dissertation was not the holy grail for which I took it.

I'm still very proud of my dissertation, and I still believe in the value of my work - but I'm also bothered by the mistakes I found months after publication.

I've come to understand that my dissertation marks a milestone in a learning process, in a process in which I evolved into an independent researcher, but it is not the end - not the end of my research on shear in slabs, nor the end of my writing on this topic.

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