Evaluation Criteria

In large part, I imagine that the evaluation criteria for this alternative dissertation project would be the same as the criteria for a normative humanities dissertation: I would like the committee’s support in holding my research, analysis, and writing skills to high standards. My chapters themselves may contain the same citation density and tone that I would use if I were writing a standard dissertation intended to be adapted to an academic book.

The media content within these chapters and the teaching applications section may include a more informal tone suited to classroom use or to projects associated with the public humanities movement.

The extent to which my committee members choose to engage with my dissertation’s additional media can be at their discretion.


Some additional conversations I would like to have with the committee during this process include…

Teaching Applications:

  • In what ways might my project lend itself to classroom discussion or reuse? (This is, after all, a project I propose to make available as an Open Educational Resource after graduate school.)
  • How might I expand the teaching applications of my research?

Formal Reflections:

  • In what ways does the media content and invitation to interactivity in my project reinforce (or detract from) my dissertation’s approach to theories of reader engagement?
  • What do you think about an approach to close reading that links readers to individual quotations within their narrative context?

Institutional Implications:

  • How scalable is the Open Educational Resource dissertation model for PhD candidates who seek to work outside of the tenure track?


UW-Madison Ad Hoc Committee For the Future of the Dissertation

In 2016, UW-Madison convened an Ad Hoc Committee for the Future of the Dissertation. The following standards may be useful to the committee in determining whether my project has met the standards of the department and university.

Proposed Standards for Examining Dissertations[1]
An acceptable dissertation completed in partial fulfillment of the PhD degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison must have the following attributes, as recognized by the student’s dissertation committee:
  1. Focus: A dissertation must clearly articulate a research problem or problems, a question or questions. It must specify the limits of the dissertation’s investigation with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  2. Appropriateness: The methods and techniques applied in the execution of the dissertation must be recognized as appropriate to the subject matter and as fitting, original, and/or aesthetically effective.
  3. Clarity: The dissertation should communicate complex ideas in a form and manner that is clear and understandable to area specialists and, as appropriate, to readers beyond the specialty area.
  4. Durability: The description of the research and its major conclusions should be in a durable form (written or otherwise capable of being permanently archived).
  5. Novelty: The dissertation should embody scholarship that makes a substantive contribution to the field of study. The ideas, concepts, designs, and/or performances should move beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  6. Connectedness: The dissertation should demonstrate a professional level of familiarity with, and understanding of, contemporary work in the field.
  7. Quantity: The dissertation should demonstrate an appropriately comprehensive investigation of the student’s research area or artistic form.
  8. Documentation and Replicability: Documentation in the dissertation should be sufficiently thorough and of an appropriate standard and made available to ensure that the dissertation provides a useful starting point or reference for subsequent researchers, scholars and/ or artists.
  9. Professionalism: A dissertation should reflect high ethical and professional standards.
*In developing these criteria, we drew on “The University of Melbourne Additional Information for Examiners when a Candidate is Submitting a Dissertation and Creative Work for an MPhil or Masters by Research Degree.” Accessed: April 9, 2016. In addition, we drew on the graduate level learning goals adopted by the UW Madison Graduate Faculty Executive Committee on November 14, 2014.[2]


Committee Members:
David Baum, Botany
Kelley Conway, Communication Arts
Susan Coppersmith, Physics
Katrina Forest, Bacteriology
Martin Foys, English
Daniel Kleinman, Graduate School (Chair)
Kris Olds, Geography
Randy Stoecker, Community and Environmental Sociology
Mario Trujillo, Mechanical Engineering



  1. The committee's recommendations were archived on a Knowledgebase page whose link is currently broken. However, you can still access a cached version of this document: First, enter the following address into Google: https://www.kb.wisc.edu/gradsch/page.php?id=71658&no_frill=1 (Note that clicking on the link in this Pressbooks page will do nothing useful.) Once you've entered the address into Google and clicked "enter," click the small green arrow next to the web address that appears on the google search hit. You'll see a dropdown box that reads "cached." Click on the word "cached" and the text will appear.
  2. The original link to this Melbourne resource has become defunct. However, the attribution and content may be seen to stand for themselves.