Breaking the thesis mould


How will I encourage my doctoral students to break out of the confines of the “conventional thesis”? How do other supervisors do this? And is it difficult for new supervisors to have the confidence to support students to be inventive? I wish I had read Creating scholartistry: Imagining the arts informed thesis or dissertation (2008) when I was a student, and I wish I had read it very early on. I would like to have physical versions handy, for browsing with students, of varied theses, like Daria Loi’s which is a suitcase, or Wayne Sellers’, which is drawn,  in landscape format, or my own, which explodes between chapters, with photographs taken by a professional photographer. I remember the terror involved in refusing to comply with the university’s requirement that the thesis title page could not contain an image.  I would like to welcome the idea that every thesis is unique, not only in theoretical conceptualisation and method, but in material, visual and structural shape, all informed by theory. To which examples do you direct your students, and when, if you basically want to blow apart rigid expectations?

Author: becomingaphdsupervisor

Dr Lucinda McKnight is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Deakin University.

One thought on “Breaking the thesis mould”

  1. Dear Lucinda,
    Thank you for sharing these thoughts in your post, ‘Breaking the thesis mould’. I’ve found that the question you raise of how to, “break out of the confines of the ‘conventional thesis’”, has become an important one for me during the writing of my PhD thesis. I like this idea not just because it asks us to contest and challenge established habits and customs in academic writing, but because as I’ve found through the process of writing my thesis, that the question is as much about gender, history, culture, politics and language, than it is about a shift in style. The theorists that I’m working with remind me that being a woman and a teacher matters, historically and politically (Arendt 1958/1998, Haug et al. 1999, Smith, 2005), and to write, think, live and breathe within the confines of formulaic and masculinist academic discourses, inevitably mediates the form, content and style of my inquiry. My interest in the use of storytelling as a mode of inquiry into English teachers’ professional learning stems from the political imperative to insert ‘the impossibilities and incongruities’ of our professional lives into academic discourses which have historically ignored women (Miller 1995). For me, the key words in ‘Creating Scholartistry: Imagining the arts informed thesis or dissertation’ (2008), are ‘creating’ and ‘imagining’ because they gesture to the agency of the author to discursively create spaces in accounts of teachers’ professional lives where incongruities and the unknown can emerge.


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