Doctoral Dissertations as Liminal Journeys of the Self by Deegan and Hill
Writing an academic work is a process of unparalleled importance for each student not only because it influences his or her future scholarly life, but because it also shapes the student’s personality. In their research, Mary Jo Deegan and Michael R. Hill argue that there is a direct connection between writing and the “self”, and that while writing a dissertation, a student grows into a professional for the work is a result of a student’s evolution.
Generally, if a graduate student completes a dissertation, it means that a certain “barrier” is crossed, and the way to a full professional life is open. In reality, however, dissertation is only a formality since one has to set another goal while writing an academic work – growing into a mature person. Deegan and Hill seek to explain a “link between writing and the self”, and to do so, they use not only scholarly research but their personal experience as well. There are many setbacks on the way to developing the “self”, one of which is the society. A writer’s “liminal self” has to complete two task at a time: prove one’s originality and meet the expectations of the society. The scholars call this process “rite de passage” – a dialogue between the writer and the society taking place in a dissertation. It is worth mentioning that there is also a certain technical formula explaining what steps should be taken to write a good research. However, such formulas should not replace a liminal journey, otherwise a contrary to positive result will be achieved.
In conclusion, writing a dissertation is a special ritual which helps a student develop at both professional and personal levels. Although there exist a number of hints on how to write a decent work, one can never know what the final result will be. Deegan and Hill believe that good writing is always liminal but highly professional at the same time.