How can digital humanities help us reimagine the dissertation? As a mid-program graduate student, I’m standing at the beginning of my dissertation project and I’m interested in hacking the dissertation.

I’ve been thinking about this from a few angles. First, digital sources provide one new way of rethinking the dissertation. Digital archives and collections that offer full text searching provide new ways to do dissertation research, especially in the current climate where graduate research funding may be difficult to find. Second, the actual dissertation itself can be rethought. For example, how could digital sources for a dissertation be archived online to provide a sort of source book for the research project? What would a “digital dissertation” look like? Lastly, how can digital technology improve the process of writing a dissertation? The dissertation is a young scholars first major project, what sort of technologies are out there that every dissertating graduate student ought to try to help them stay organized and get the thing written?

I would love to see something come out of this discussion that could serve as a guide or toolbox for graduate students wanting to hack their dissertations. There are a lot of great reviews and ideas about writing dissertations with digital technologies (for example, Tonya Roth’s blog “Hacking the Dissertation Process” ) but its very scattered and tough to track down and synthesize. We need a more systematic approach to rethinking a digital dissertation.