Doctoring a thesis: an unusually creative PhD

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Many universities offer a route to PhD by publication or by providing specific relevant creative artefacts such as music score, play, or piece of creative writing (see for example the University of Nottingham’s regulations on this).

All have to offer an original contribution to knowledge, but other than regulatory constraints, are there any real boundaries to the form of a PhD?

For a number of years we have had the ‘Dance your PhD’ programme which enables researchers to re-present their research in new and exciting ways. Last year’s winner of this competition managed to produce a video of her work too:

When Florence Metz turned in her Ph.D. thesis on water protection policy this year at the University of Bern in Switzerland, she thought her work was done. But then a friend sent her an email with congratulations and an order: “Dance your PhD!”

The friend was referring to Science‘s annual contest, which challenges scientists to explain their research through interpretive dance. But Metz only had 3 weeks to go before the deadline. “Everything had to go fast,” she says, so she recruited a small army of friends to help her create a dance video that combines hip hop, salsa, and even acro-yoga. Each dance style represented a different interest group that shapes the evolution of policies around water resources.

Last year there was also the entertaining if brief ‘tweet your PhD’ phenomenon where researchers sought to sum up their theses in just 140 characters. Some of these are very good indeed.

But most recently we have this really rather novel research offering from a doctoral student at Clemson University:

On Friday, a Clemson University doctoral student, A.D. Carson, will defend his PhD dissertation in the rhetorics, communication and information design program — and many are already enjoying his work. His dissertation is a 34-song rap album, “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions,” which many on YouTube and other social media sites are praising.

There’s a short video introduction to A.D. Carson’s Owning My Masters Dissertation here.

Now that really is an original contribution.

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