Three Papers Dissertation Model

There are still many universities and departments that prefer the conventional dissertation model; however, some others promote and encourage Ph.D. students for the “three papers” dissertation model.

A typical conventional dissertation includes the following sections:

    1. Introduction and outline of the problem of interest
    2. Literature review
    3. Background and detailed problem description
    4. Methodology
    5. Results and Discussion
    6. Conclusions, Policy implications, Future Plans

The final output of a conventional dissertation is hundreds of pages of a comprehensive document. The main disadvantage of this traditional format is this massive document is not publishable directly. Typically each dissertation includes many subproblems and extensions, and the Ph.D. dissertation will end up with multiple publications. However, decomposing the whole thesis into papers is extra work and not very easy.  For this reason, publishing dissertation papers take many years, and new Ph.D. graduates are not able to benefit from these publications while searching for an academic position. 

Awareness about the disadvantageous of the conventional dissertation approach arises a new dissertation model, which is known as the “three papers” model.  This new approach requires special preparation and formatting.  The departments who are supporting this model provides detailed guidelines for students about the requirements and new structures. As examples for the guidelines, readers can look at the following links:

Indiana University School of Public Health – Guidelines for the Dissertation of Three Publishable Papers

NC State University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management – Guidelines for Article‐Style Dissertation (ASD),

The University of Iowa College of Education – Guidelines for Article-Style Dissertations.

A general structure of the three papers dissertation model includes the following sections:

1. Introduction to the overall topic
2. First paper
3. Second paper
4. Third paper
5.Conclusions, Policy implications, Future Plans

This new structure allows students to organize their work as journal publications, which increases the possibility of getting published for some parts of the dissertation before the dissertation defense. This model is very efficient in terms of transforming the dissertation work into articles in a shorter time frame. Additionally, although for any reason, a student needs to switch or end his/her Ph.D. study, the prior efforts will still be rewarded with the publication(s).

Besides the advantage of multiple publications in parallel to the dissertation process, since the first parts (papers) will be reviewed by both advisors and journal reviewers, additional views and feedback will improve the quality of the work and strengthen the student’s dissertation experience.

Finally, this model enables students to divide Ph.D. work into manageable parts and practical targets. Ph.D. students who are following this new model define this experience as “… less stressful, more time-efficient, and enjoyable to write…”.

 

 

 

Benefits of Attending Academic Conferences for Students

Conferences are crucial parts of academic life. These meetings make me feel like big family gatherings on special days. Although the speeches, presentations might be a little nervous, I think people feel comfortable due to being close to familiar faces, colleagues, old friends. That is the academic family. 

I believe the expectations of and opportunities for attending conferences are evolving in different stages of academic life. In this post, I would like to mention some benefits of academic conferences from a student’s points of view.

The first benefit is getting to know people from your field. For a student, it is very exciting experience to see and meet with very famous names of the field that I know from their textbooks and publications.  Additionally knowing that everyone in the conference is connected in a way and you are trying to be a part of it. It is always better to know more people, starting a conversation for future collaborations.

For a Ph.D. student, another benefit is learning about the recent popular research questions, methodologies, and new ideas. This is very important to keep track of recent topics, latest research interests to figure out what are the options for you. And who might be the right person to contact with maybe for feedback or collaboration.

Getting valuable feedback from a group of academicians from your field is also very important, especially in the earlier stages of your work. This feedback will be helpful to shape your ideas and improve your work. Many conferences are well-planned and pay attention to social free conversation times such as receptions, dinners, and coffee breaks. All these times are really valuable to meet, strengthen relations, or talking about ideas, studies in detail.

Another important benefit is improving presentation and communication skills.  Most of the time students are just discussing their study with the same group of people; advisors, committee members, research group members, and maybe some other. But how about explaining your work in front of people who do not have a prior idea about it just in a few minutes? Explaining a whole study in fifteen minutes first seem impossible to me. But possible, even in a shorter time.  This only requires practice. Identifying the key points and interesting findings to share and communicating effectively are valuable achievements.

Last but not the least, I need to say that conferences provide a great opportunity to visit new places.  Academic life is very busy even during the conference. However, there are some free times for attendees to have fun. Staying in a new place for a few days, discovering their culture, food, music is a very refreshing experience just before going back to the normal routine. 

Publication Journey of a Researcher

You have a novel ground-breaking research idea and want to turn this study into a journal article. You are so excited about its novelty and important contributions.  And your publication journey just starts… Do you know how long will it take to get your paper published? Unfortunately, the answer is very uncertain and depends on many factors. I would like to describe the process from my point of view as a young researcher who is in the early stages of academic life.

First of all, each journal has a different publication speed. There are some journals taking really long times. Each manuscript is reviewed by a group of people including chief editor, senior editors, and reviewers. Usually, there are a lot of submissions to manage. Finding proper peers based on their area of interest and expertise to review a manuscript is one of the critical parts.  Additionally, peer-reviewing is a volunteer process, accordingly, the availability and willingness of reviewers also affect the speed of the process.  Each reviewer has generally “flexible” due dates to complete their review and recommendations. And completing each task for a decision takes a long time.

And all of these are only for a single round. If your study makes sense and promising, you will receive one of the following decisions: acceptance, minor revision, major revision, or revise and resubmit. (There might be other types) Therefore, you will have a chance to revise the current manuscript in a few months based on all comments and recommendations. And this process will repeat until you will have an acceptance or rejection. This will be the end of your journal for this particular paper if you get an acceptance. Congratulations!

However, do not too much worry, if the paper is rejected. There might be many reasons. Your study might not be a true fit for that specific journal. Or you were unlucky because the group of people who reviewed your work was not the proper match because of the expertise or interest. Or you did not do a good job in explaining what you did, why this study is important, what are the novel contributions and so on. However, this is not the end.

The best next step is looking for another proper journal for your study. Even though your paper is rejected before, you will have many comments about what is missing or not sufficient. And probably there will be some good suggestions about how to improve this work or to make it publishable. Do not forget, reviewers are not trying to block your publication. They are responsible for helping and guiding their peers for reshaping the study, making it understandable, and ensuring quality and relevance. So, their comments will help you to reframe your work. I believe this is good guidance for a new start. And you will experience several steps in that new journal until the acceptance.

To be honest, all of these look a little bit scary. And I wonder how researchers keep them motivated and excited about starting a new publication journal, especially after knowing that it will take years and the process will be challenging. For me, the thing is, this rocky road will ensure improvement and success. And great successes require great efforts. So, I have huge respect for everyone who is contributing to this journey.

Educator role of the faculty

I have been carefully observing my teachers and professors since my childhood. I always put myself on their shoes and tried to think about if I were the instructor how would I behave.  I was a lucky child since I had many great teachers who are inspirational and intellectual. They were my role models and now I am grateful for their invaluable contributions. 

Being a faculty member of a university requires very high research and teaching qualifications beyond doubt. Being a successful researcher does not enough for a faculty to be a good educator. Providing high-quality instruction, incorporating up-to-date knowledge, research, and methods, and the use of new technologies, procedures are important aspects of teaching. However, the educator role of the faculty is not only about high-quality teaching.  Educators should not forget how an important role they have in students’ lives.

Having a good personality, protecting students’ rights, being fair and responsible are important characteristics of good educators.  Faculty should recognize student needs, make necessary adjustments to increase learning opportunities for all students, and provide beneficial academic and career guidance to them. Additionally, faculty should remember their role in the students’ life and should always be equitable, responsible, and inspiring. They need to be very heedful of their actions and expressions. 

I sometimes feel that the emphasis on these is not sufficient in educational institutions. Or maybe the hard-working,  high expectations, and pressure on faculty cause tiredness and so their roles as an educator melt into the background. 

A wish for the future of higher education

Think about the higher education a few decades ago: no internet, no online sources, limited access to any kind of scholarly sources. Sometimes I find myself thinking about how lucky I am having all this technology, unlimited accessible information, and learning opportunities. However, then I start to worry about the higher expectations, which are as much as the resources and opportunities. I feel like my capacity is not enough to benefit from all of these, or I fall behind all time. Is this just myself causing such a depression, or does current higher education culture cause me to feel like that?

Academia has been started to produce knowledge very fast, and researchers are being rewarded based on the quantity and speed of their products, but this causes anxiety and fatigue on academicians. I believe this is something that should change in the future of higher education. Although I appreciate the level of knowledge we reached and this incredible productivity, I worry about the mental health of the researchers. As a Ph.D. student and a fresh and ambitious researcher, I think this tiredness and fear of falling behind should not be very reasonable. For this reason, there is something wrong. I believe the institutions and academic culture should provide support and courage but also prevent such anxiety on the researchers. 

Today, we are experiencing a worldwide pandemic crisis so that education and research continue at home as far as possible. The first thing I really appreciate was all the efforts on the continuity of education using all the technology we have. And the second thing was the change in behavior and attitude in the university. “First, stay healthy, and then do your best.”  Life is not always easy, and people may not be very productive or efficient. But I think we were about to forget many professors or students have been experiencing a variety of difficulties in life, and making everything accessible and expecting full capacity performance was not fair. I do not mean decreasing the quality or productivity, but the assessment based on quantity and speed, and continuous pressure is not very always helpful.

I believe it is necessary to maintain mental health by decreasing worries and stress, then we will see increased motivation and productivity within a pleasing environment.

 

Continuity of education in the middle of a pandemic

Nowadays, the world has been experiencing a very difficult time. COVID-19 suddenly changed the natural flow of life and it has been the biggest threat of this century for a human being. Although the initial concern of everybody is surviving or just staying safe, at the same time many of us are trying to continue working from home.

Our homes are now our new offices, new classrooms, and maybe new laboratories. Today’s technology provides a great opportunity for the continuity of learning. The students were switched to an online education model, and all the teachers and academia are trying to get used to this new system. Quarantine days brought with a quick adaptation to technological sources for the continuity of the education all over the world. Now, we have online classes, meetings, and exams. This is a great effort that deserves admiration.

And that is not all. The institutions, publishers, companies, organizations, they are all doing their best to support this affordable and accessible online learning system that we have to switch. I cannot believe how supportive and collaborative we are! The internet is full of resources more than ever. In a short span of time, the universities and companies provide open access to their libraries, databases. Free online courses, electronic books, accessible archives. All is for the education. In my opinion, this is a significant milestone for the open-access education movement.

As a graduate student who is trying to continue learning in the middle of a global crisis, I am grateful for all these efforts. Although I am not able to focus very well and not as productive as normal times, all this help and support makes me feel good.  I know this is a challenging time for us. Full of misery, and worry. But I am hopeful about the future and I am sure we all will have a lot of lessons from it. Already now, I noticed we will not allow to stop learning and we are not willing to deprive anyone of this opportunity.     

 

Large-Scale E-Learning: Massive Open Online Courses

Today, technological innovations provide a great opportunity to support the learning needs of millions of people in the world. Rising need for large-scale access to affordable high-quality education directs many universities and companies to use technological innovations in addition to traditional education efforts. Sanchez-Gordon and Luján-Mora (2018) mention the contribution of social media and mobile devices to large-scale teaching and learning techniques since people are more connected to each other and more authorized by their self-learning.

In this blog post, I would like to introduce Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) which is one of the latest online learning methods and gaining in popularity among people. MOOCs provide a cost-effective and flexible opportunities for everyone to benefit from quality educational experiences for skill development and career enhancement. MOOCs are largely made by universities such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard. Additionally, some companies such as Microsoft or Google and organizations such as IEEE  provide MOOCs for public use (https://www.classcentral.com/help/moocs/). The study of Hew and Cheung (2014) summarize the main reasons why students are using MOOCs as “(1) the desire to learn about a new topic or to advance current knowledge, (2) the curiosity about MOOCs, (3) for personal challenge, and (4) the desire to collect as many completion certificates as possible.” Additionally, MOOCs are

A recent research article by Sanchez-Gordon and Luján-Mora (2018)  explains the important historical milestones of five evolutionary roots that lead to the emergence of different MOOC models as, “(1) distance education and online learning, (2) testing or teaching machines and computer-assisted instruction, (3) learning management systems, (4) open education and open educational resources, and (5) online massive teaching” based on a qualitative content analysis on previous publications.  This article provided me an opportunity to see the exciting history of how technological innovations pave the way for this new online learning service. Additionally,  this paper suggests “careful consideration of the MOOC pedagogical spectrum characteristics, selection of an appropriate MOOC model, and management of implementation challenges” for the successful implementation of MOOCs.

The recent coronavirus crisis is forcing many people to stay at home to be safe and healthy. Very challenging times! However, I really appreciate the universities’ and companies’ efforts on promoting open and free access to online sources for the continuity of learning. It is the time for learning from home.

 

 

Hew, K. F., & Cheung, W. S. (2014). Students’ and instructors’ use of massive open online courses (MOOCs): Motivations and challenges. Educational research review12, 45-58.

Sanchez-Gordon, S., & Luján-Mora, S. (2018). Technological innovations in large-scale teaching: five roots of massive open online courses. Journal of educational computing research56(5), 623-644.

An Interdisciplinary Open Access Journal: International Journal of Disaster Risk Science

Open access journals provide opportunities for researchers to reach literature freely via digital platforms. Peter Suber (2012), the author of the book “Open Access,” defines open access literature as “… digital, online, free of charge, and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions.” This new form of academic publication follows a very-well established peer-review process to maintain high-quality publication standards (https://guides.library.cornell.edu/openaccess).

In this blog, I will introduce the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science (IJDRS), which is an interdisciplinary English language open access journal in the disaster risk management area. The journal is fully sponsored by Bejing Normal University and the China Association for Science and Technology and published under the brand SpringerOpen.

IJDRS provides a free access platform for researches, practitioners, and policymakers in order to serve local, national and international disaster management efforts. The primary purpose of this journal is to provide useful information sharing and communication platform for the researchers to enhance the knowledge on analysis, measurement, and governance of disaster risk and resilience. This platform supports the research efforts on past disasters and the real practices observed in their management in order to establish generalizable novel theories and methodologies.

The articles published in this journal are mostly problem-driven and solution-oriented. Specifically, they address the problems of major disasters such as disaster operations management, emergency response, and disaster risk governance. Editorial board of the IJDSR announced the related topics in the journal website as follows:

  • Human dimensions of disaster risk
  • Disaster risk governance and resilience
  • Disaster risk and resilience indicators and measurement
  • Global change and disaster risks
  • Development and risk transition
  • Empirical studies and perspectives on major disaster events

(https://www.springer.com/journal/13753/aims-and-scope).

Open access movement brings a lot of benefits to researchers such as free and quick access to publications compared to subscription-only journal articles. This allows readers to easily search within the text, make recommendations and share information. Additionally, these journals decrease publication costs. The IJDRS addresses open access by emphasizing that the articles published in this journal are available online freely and permanently right after their publication. It is also mentioned that there is no subscription or registration cost to access articles.

I think, for interdisciplinary researchers open access journals provide great advantages since it is harder to search even keywords since different disciplines might have different terminologies. For this reason, searching within full-text very quickly is very helpful to narrow down what the researchers are looking for or to find the correct key phrases.

Suber, Peter. 2012. Open access. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. [Updates and Supplements: http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/hoap/Open_Access_(the_book)]

 

 

The Ethics of Authorship

Who is responsible for published work? Did you ever think about the ethical issues on the authorship in publications? Simply, the definition of an author should be a significant contributor to the study and should provide creditworthy effort. Unfortunately, it is not very easy to measure if somebody’s contribution is substantial. The ambiguity in the definition causes ethical violations for many researchers who are or aren’t able to announce themselves as co-authors.

Many academic publications have more than a single author whose experience and professional title might change. The co-author list of a paper might include senior professors, associate professors, assistant professors, students, and so on. Each having different motivations for being a part of published study. For example, graduating, being placed in a high-quality institute, or being tenured. Although the primary requirement of earning authorship is providing a significant contribution, there are a lot of points that need to be clarified to prevent violation of ethics. In general, publications include a variety of tasks. Some examples could be idea generation, data collection, and processing, methodology implementation, experimentation, writing, giving feedback, leading the process. It is not realistic to assume that each name contributes to all tasks and continuously until the publication. But which duties are more essential or considered as significant contributions? Are there other ways to acknowledge or thank people who have a valuable contribution? In my opinion, the ethics of authorship is a very complicated issue and requires good understanding and communication between researchers.

Today’s academic culture value researchers based on their number of publications and the quality of the journals they are publishing. This is known as “publish or perish” among the researchers who are exposed to the high pressure of publication. Although the underlying reason is encouraging continuous advancement in science, it turns out to be an unpleasant competition and violations in the ethics in authorships in scientific publications.

The Office of Research Integrity provides a case with the title ” Should I be listed as an Author? ” on its website  [1]. This story is about the unethical behavior of an assistant professor, Thomas, who is trying to advance to associate professor within a year. A senior colleague of Thomas, Dev, talked about and encouraged Thomas about his study and also provided some lab equipment for the analysis. Then, Thomas had listed Dev as a co-author for the recently submitted manuscript about the research they talked about before without informing Dev or asking his permission. This was a  big shock for Dev, who did not even review the final version of the manuscript. This story is about how you can violate the ethics of authorship, although you are trying to do a kindness to your senior colleague. There might be gracious reasons for Thomas to do this; however, this is unethical for sure.  Being an author means being responsible for everything written in the article. A researcher should not take the responsibility of the study, which is highly risky for the researcher’s career and eminence. Actually, this is very surprising to read that you can be listed as a co-author without permission or notification. At least for the submitted manuscripts, it should not be so hard to notify all co-authors about the submission and ask for approval. However, this is not the solution to this unethical behavior. The institutions should make a substantial effort to discuss the ethics of authorship to increase awareness about the potential drawbacks of it.

[1] “Case Three: Should I Be Listed as an Author?” ORI. Accessed February 17, 2020. https://ori.hhs.gov/case-three-should-i-be-listed-author.

Communicating the missions of the institutions

Mission statements are clear and coherent public declarations about the purpose, values, and goals of the institutions and guidelines for the administrators, faculty, students, and the others who are connected with that institution. Mission statements should always be up-to-date and they could change over time. Although one can think every institution of higher education will be similar in its principal educational goals, mission statements differ based on how they would like to communicate these goals. Geographical features, international presence, religious affiliations, public or private being, and the audience affect how an institution of higher education declares its mission.   Additionally, a simple search on the mission statements shows they might vary in format, language, length, and clarity.  In this blog, I will analyze the mission statements of two well-respected and successful universities in higher education in terms of their similarities and differences.

As the first example, I chose one of the world’s oldest and leading academic centers. The University of Cambridge, a collegiate public research university in the United Kingdom, declares its mission as:

“The mission of the University of Cambridge is to contribute to society through the pursuit of education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence.”

This is an excellent example of how a mission statement could say a lot with only a few words. The 27-word statement includes well-chosen terms such as “society,” “education,” “learning,” “research,” “international,” and “excellence.” European institutions have the shortest mission statements based on a comprehensive content analysis of Cortés-Sánchez (2017).  Considering worldwide recognition and prestige of the University of Cambridge, one could argue that this single sentence is impactful enough to explain its mission.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), a private research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts,  is also a well-recognized and high-level research institute which places in the top list in many rankings of universities. Different from the mission statement of the University of Cambridge, MIT has a very detailed explanation of its mission:

“The mission of MIT is to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.

The Institute is committed to generating, disseminating, and preserving knowledge, and to working with others to bring this knowledge to bear on the world’s great challenges. MIT is dedicated to providing its students with an education that combines rigorous academic study and the excitement of discovery with the support and intellectual stimulation of a diverse campus community. We seek to develop in each member of the MIT community the ability and passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.”

These institutes have similar goals and values, such as global benefit, continuous learning, and education for a better human being. However, MIT chooses to be more clear and specific about the values, goals, and action plans with a 115-word mission statement. This statement emphasizes the dedication and commitment of the institute to attain its desires.

It is essential to notice that although these mission statements are structured differently, both belong to the world’s leading institutions of higher education. I do believe that the secret of success is how well the institutes can align their real actions with their promises declared in the mission statements.

Cortés-Sánchez, J. (2017). Mission and vision statements of universities worldwide: A content analysis. Documentos De Investigación, Facultad de Administración, (152), 2463-1892.