Graduate students given more flexibility in dissertations

GVL / Mikki Fujimori 
A GVSU student working dilligently on homework.

GVL / Mikki Fujimori A GVSU student working dilligently on homework.

Lizzy Balboa

With about 40 graduate students completing dissertations this semester, Grand Valley State University’s Office of Graduate Studies is working to spread the word about changes to the thesis guidelines.

“The Office of Graduate Studies has worked this semester to make students more aware of the guidelines and deadlines involved in completing a thesis or dissertation,” said Jeffrey Potteiger, dean of Graduate Studies. “The thesis/dissertation guidelines have been changed and simplified for a number of reasons. Two of the main reasons for this is to ensure consistency in structure and rigor in content.”

As one of the changes, GVSU now stores all dissertations and theses in a university repository called ScholarWorks.

“Because the university no longer requires students to print and bind their theses/dissertations, it is important that the electronic copies stored by the library are formatted correctly and consistently,” Potteiger said. “This allows for easier searching of information contained in ScholarWorks and within the thesis/dissertation.”

Another change implemented by the university allows different programs and units to determine the most appropriate format for student theses and dissertations. While all students were previously required to adhere to the traditional structure of having an introduction, review of literature, methodology, results and discussion/conclusions sections, they can now submit their work in journal format. The new option changes the required sections to only an introduction and manuscript, while the methodology, results and discussion sections are optional.

“This new format allows the student to prepare the thesis/dissertation in a format that makes the information ready for submission to a journal for publication,” Potteiger said. “Using the traditional format would require the student to rework the thesis/dissertation into a journal article. We expect the journal format to result in a greater dissemination of the research work to other scholars and practitioners.”

The opportunity to be published in a professional journal is, itself, surely a satisfying finale to the students’ 20 or so years in a classroom. But Potteiger said the program administrators and faculty hope to provide just as sweet of a learning experience.

“A thesis or dissertation is the culmination of a student’s graduate degree program, and the faculty who direct the thesis/dissertation research and the Office of Graduate Studies want to ensure that students leave the university having had a high quality and positive experience,” Potteiger said.

Despite the changes in dissertation guidelines, other rigorous aspects of the graduate programs have remained the same, including the public presentation and defense of the thesis.

“This requirement allows for students, faculty and staff to participate in an open and transparent process that promotes the free exchange of ideas and information,” Potteiger said. “This is a hallmark of the university learning environment.”

Graduate students currently working to develop their theses can receive assistance in a number of resources. Not only does GVSU employ librarians specialized in each discipline and proficient in research and thesis formatting, but the Office of Graduate Studies also offers workshops through the PACES program to help students along the entire process.

The first workshop kicked off Sept. 29 and covered the starting points of developing a thesis, including why students should choose to complete a thesis and how to select an adviser.

The office also provides dissertation examples and forms to help students complete their work.

To access the resources offered by the Office of Graduate Studies, visit the website at or
[email protected]