Developing the Professional: Unpacking Graduate Student Resources #2

Written by Teresa Blumenthal, Associate Editor for Spanish and Portuguese Review.

Quick Facts

Resource Type: Book
Title: Making the Implicit Explicit: Creating Performance Expectations for the Dissertation
Author: Dr. Barbara E. Lovitts
Year of Publication: 2007

Book Synopsis and Layout

Making the Implicit Explicit: Creating Performance Expectations for the Dissertation is a guide to assessing the outcomes of a dissertation project as a final graduate assessment. This book is part of a larger study investigating the connection and dissonance between acceptance criteria into a doctoral program along with the completion criteria. Dr. Lovitts reports what researchers, mentors, deans, and advisors in various fields classify as an ‘outstanding’ (defined on page 36) dissertation in hopes to clarify information that may not be explicitly available to doctoral students. 

Lovitts worked with focus groups comprising 272 faculty members in 74 departments across 9 research universities. Among the participants, the faculty had 6,129 years of experience, chaired 3,470 dissertations and been members of 9,890 committees (for more participant information, see chapter 1). In the first section of the book, Lovitts details what previous research reports as noteworthy qualities in a dissertation (chapter 1), as well as the participants’ definition of a significant and original contribution to the field (see chapter 3). Using the data from the focus groups, Lovitts creates practical dissertation rubrics that broadly conceptualize a strong dissertation.  

The 10 chapters in section two report the results from discipline-specific focus groups. Each chapter provides a more nuanced description of dissertation expectations according to the experienced participants. Additionally, area-specific rubrics are provided in each chapter should the reader seek a detailed guide to an outstanding dissertation. Lovitts expertly includes clear resources to guide a doctoral student through their dissertation experience. 

Spanish and Portuguese Review Relevance

This book is an excellent resource when assessing the expectations of a dissertation. Even though Spanish and Portuguese are not unique chapters, there are multiple humanities and social science fields included. For interdisciplinary Spanish and Portuguese scholars/grad students,  understanding the expectations for an English or Psychology dissertation may not only influence your project, but also guide you in better discerning dissertation expectations in the broader humanities and social sciences fields of research. Because of SPR’s commitment to diversity in publication scope and authorship, our publications often integrate other subfields such as linguistics, history, teaching, applied linguistics, cultural studies, media studies, among others.

As you read about the implicit and explicit expectations of scholars for the [dissertation/thesis/research] project, I encourage you to think about your area of research or your current project. Do you believe your advisor/committee have been forthcoming with their expectations? Consider using the information in this book as a guide to open (or continue!) a conversation with your advisor(s) and/or committee to make expectations for your project clear so you can have a positive dissertation experience. 

Personal Highlights

I highly recommend this book as a resource to acknowledge and anticipate what advisors and committees expect from a dissertation as well as how experienced academics conceptualize excellence and achievement in a single assessment. A fellow graduate student recommended this book to me when I disclosed that I felt like expectations for one of my research projects in my masters program were unclear. This book transformed my understanding regarding what constitutes a good research project as well as what advisors hope for in a student and their recommendations for research. I hope that you will not only find this book helpful for your dissertation, but for your journey on research projects as well as for how you approach mentoring students in the future! 

If you have read this book, let us know in the comments below. We’d love to know what information is now ‘explicit’ after reading this book! 

Stay tuned next month for more graduate student resources! 

MLA Reference
Lovitts, Barbara E. Making the Implicit Explicit: Creating Performance Expectations for the Dissertation, Stylus Publishing, 2007.

APA Reference
Lovitts, B.E. (2007). Making the implicit explicit: Creating performance expectations for the dissertation. Stylus Publishing.

Teresa Blumenthal is a PhD student at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests include Heritage Spanish, language attitudes, educational motivation, Spanish in the U.S., and language acquisition. She is particularly interested in Spanish spoken in Texas, and the language attitudes related to Spanish in Texas.

Developing the Professional: Unpacking Graduate Student Resources, written by Teresa Blumenthal

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