Dialectical PhD exercises  Recent blog posts

Dialectical PhD exercises

On Thursday, 6 November 2014, at 2:23 PM I suggested in my Research101 moodle and elsewhere that those who do their PhD will write short and clear answers to the following questions below.  They will submit it in the moodle, below, or to me, and that we'll discuss each others' writing, anonymously or not, and after that you can rewrite the answers based on the discussions, comments that you receive, questions you are asked and ask your peers, and what you learned from this dialogical dialectical critical engagement.  As your research progresses we shall do it again and gain.  And organize it in chapters, reflecting on the presentation and orders of the chapters and sections.

Here are the questions again

    1. What you do - what do you do?

    2. why do you do what you do?

    3. what excites you about it?

    4. what is the point of it?

    5. what do you see as valuable, a significant value, in what you do, your PhD, why is it valuable?

    6. what are your values as a the practitioner/member of your field/discipline/subject who wants to contribute to your field/discipline/subject, humanity, the world and the planet  and do meaningful things - what are these values of yours?

    7. what are your values as a human being who wants to contribute to other human beings, the planet and knowledge - what are they?

    8.  how is your work/PhD thesis a significant contribution to human knowledge that is worthwhile to offer and do and why?

    9. What is the field (subject) you  want to contribute to?

    10. How do you contribute to this subject?

    11. How do you and your work draw on existing ideas?

    12. Which ideas influence you, and your interest in the subject?

    13. which ideas do you draw on? why them? what do you like about them?
    14. which ideas in the subject you do not like? why?
    15. why these ideas excite you and/or make you want to engage in and with them  and critically study and enquire into them? 

    16. How do you work on, transform and improve on these ideas in your work and thesis?

    17. How do you do what you do? which methodologies and methods do you use? why them?

    18. How is your work original, different, innovative? why is it original? why is it important that it is original?

    19. what have you done so far? why is it important? what does it show us? how does it relate to your thesis/argument? How does it back your thesis or falsify it?


      Succinctly, to the point and communicably.  Picture a person – with little understanding of the field - who asks you these questions and want to understand it.  And you want to engage him/her, explain your work to him/her and have him/her grasp and internalise  it 

       Then we can discuss the writings and rewrite the questions


      The aim is for you to critically reflect on, understand and internalize, and explain to others what you do, how and why and to get excited about it and get others excited and see the contribution in your work and its extent and merit.

       The way it is an original contribution that critically and coherently engages with the ideas and work of others in the field, and your own ideas, that is worthy of  being published (publishable)   and extent and merit. These are the criteria of a PhD

       Personally, I want to see how you transform your thesis and ideas, improve your communication, writings, thesis and argument as you critically reflect on what you do, discuss it with others, critically engage with comments and feedback, reflect on the comments received, provide comments to others and reflect on your comments providing comments to others.  We/I need to think on the criteria for the transformation, how to evaluate the transformation, and what it means in this exercise.  My prediction is that this process will shorten your PhD programmes.  Other researchers are welcome to do this exercise as well if they wish, but of course we will not use the PhD criteria.

Posted by Alon Serper on 20 March 2015 10:37:51

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