Friday, July 10, 2009

on picking a dissertation topic

I remember learning about the higher education credentialing system for the first time from my mom. I was pretty young--maybe five or six--and she was trying to explain what the phrases "bachelor's degree" and "master's degree" meant.

...and if they're really smart, she added, some people even become doctors.

"But to get their doctorate, they have to write a paper that's about something that nobody's ever written about."

I wondered: How do they know that they have a topic that nobody's ever written about?

Her answer: "There's a book with the titles of all the dissertations ever written. When it's time to pick a paper topic, they look through the book to make sure they have a title that nobody's ever used before."

I remember thinking at that time how boring and time-consuming it would be to have to read every single title of every paper ever written. Now I think, if only it were that easy.

I do hope they're working on putting that book online, and that it gets uploaded in time for my dissertation proposal. I'd hate to have to walk into an actual library--they smell funny and the graphics aren't that good.

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