Special Topics in Information: Dissertation Argument Structure


INF3100H — Special Topics in Information: Dissertation Argument Structure

An intensive workshop for post-candidacy doctoral students to assist in the development of the conceptual structure of their dissertations. Writing a doctoral dissertation is a larger intellectual project than most doctoral students have undertaken at any prior point in their studies. Doing a good job requires developing a conceptually coherent and compelling argument that makes the case for the claim(s) being advanced and defended. Developing such arguments is a hard-won skill, which must be practiced, honed, and refined over many iterations. A number of factors can impede the process of formulating a conceptually sound argument, especially in the context of a dissertation: (i) the magnitude of the writing task can get in the way of focus on the argument itself; (ii) writers can become mired in the details of a set of findings, and find it difficult to grasp the logical structure of what is to be claimed; (iii) the best structure for the ultimate argument is often far from clear early in the process. Arguments often need be adjusted during the dissertation process—often completely restructured (an analogy, in prose, to refactoring a computer program); (iv) once draft prose is created, it has a tendency to draw the writer ineluctably into an endless process of incremental adjustments and edits, at the expense of addressing more urgent and fundamental structural problems in the underlying conceptual framework. The aim of this seminar is to assist doctoral students in framing, articulating, developing, and revising the conceptual structure of the arguments on which their dissertations will be based. Techniques to be developed include the developments of skeletons—short, distilled, logical précis of arguments, stripped of all prose, rhetoric, introductions, etc., designed to reveal the conceptual structure of an argument in a bare-bones manner. Developing a good skeleton is extraordinarily difficult, but more than repays the effort in simplifying and making more effective the subsequent writing process.

The class meeting dates and times for fall 2020 and winter 2021 are TBA.


The class meets on the following dates from 9-12pm and 1-4pm in 2019-2020:

September 27, 2019

November 22, 2019

January 24, 2020

March 27, 2020

Note:  For doctoral students who have achieved candidacy.

****Please note the add/drop deadlines for INF3100H Y***

Last day to DROP: January 20, 2020 (Use ACORN/ROSI – Within SGS Deadline, no form needed)