Lessons from My Dissertation Committee

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I’m currently working on my dissertation and have noticed some bad habits of mine due to comments left by readers on my committee. If you’re in the process of writing or haven’t even started, keep these items in mind—

  1. Don’t sermonize. As a preacher, this can be difficult for me. Though, I’d dare say that I sermonize less than when I first entered the program. There have been a few sermonizing lines here or there. Sometimes they just seep out. If you’re a preacher, resist this temptation to pontificate. Stick to scholarship and research.
  2. Don’t over-generalize. I’ve made general statements that my readers have picked apart. For some, I’ve needed to clarify, and for others, I’ve just deleted them because they were counterintuitive to my research. If you generalize, be sure to cite sources and support your generalization(s).
  3. Be sure to define your terms narrowly. Since my dissertation is on Christian hospitality, I’ve allowed the sources that I’ve read to define hospitality. However, the definition has been exceedingly broad. The purpose of this kind of research is to be narrow and unpack the narrowness of the topic.
  4. Be sure that your thesis statement unfolds as your research does as well. I was hefty on one point in the first two chapters only to scarcely mention it in those that followed. A part of this was to state the paradigm I was working in, but the readers want to see it developed throughout.

For the two articles that I’ve had published, it went a lot like this—the articles were peer-reviewed, and changes were suggested. I’d make the changes and would resubmit. They would send it back asking for more (different) changes than before. Having gone through that with articles allows me a better perspective of the dissertation. Learn, grow, and become better—that’s the whole game.

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