The Digital Dissertation: History, Theory, Practice (an eBook & Database Project)

Call for Participation

The Digital Dissertation: History, Theory, Practice

A Database and eBook Project

Virginia Kuhn, Kathie Gossett (eds.)

Abstract submission: 12 January 2018

Humanities scholars recognize the growing importance of digital media in knowledge production and distribution. However, recognition does not imply acceptance. How does one negotiate digital scholarship in an academy that remains largely print based in its outputs? The most valued scholarship is still the book, monograph, or journal article, and this not only limits the audience for humanities research to university scholars, but also limits its forms of argumentation to a primarily Western, linearly structured way of thinking. That is, relying on one mode of communication limits what can be said and to whom it can be said, making the humanities insular rather than allowing it to take advantage of opportunities to communicate with the broader public. In their study, The Responsive PhD, The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, argues that “scholarship is the heart of the doctorate” and that programs need to ask “What encourages adventurous scholarship? What retards and discourages it?” Adventurous scholarship requires “new paradigms,” which demand an examination of the often unarticulated philosophies that govern what qualifies as legitimate scholarship.

How do these “new paradigms” play out in the context of the dissertation?  While digital dissertations have been around for twenty years or more, the precise processes by which they are defined, created and defended remain something of a mystery. Is an interactive pdf significantly different than its paper-based counterpart? What specific possibilities can a digitally networked environment offer that are impossible without its affordances? How are dissertation committees able to gauge the quality of natively digital work? What support systems and processes do students need to complete these types of projects? How do precedents prove helpful in defending one’s choice to create a digital dissertation? How do digital projects change the ways faculty members advise dissertations?

This project, The Digital Dissertation: History, Theory, Practice, will consist of a definitive database of digital dissertation projects as well as an ebook whose chapters explore the larger implications of digital scholarship across institutional, geographic and disciplinary divides. Have you completed or advised a digital dissertation? Then please consider this project. 

There are two ways to participate: 

1. Complete this brief survey about the work (which will form a database) by January 12, 2018.

2. Complete this brief survey about the work (which will form a database for others) and submit a 300–500 word proposal by January 12, 2018 for a chapter in the e-book which responds to the most salient issue/s surrounding the digital dissertation and the ways that students and committee members managed the possibilities and obstacles inherent in this type of work. We imagine these chapters as being 3000 to 5000 words in length and due on May 11, 2018. Authors will be notified in early February. 

Please send proposals and/or any  questions about the project to  Kathie Gossett ( and Virginia Kuhn ( 


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