Difficulties in the preparation of the doctoral thesis
It has been commented in the previous section that the biggest problem that the student finds in his admission to the university is his adaptation to the disciplinary means, subject to constant variability, which he must overcome if he wants to join that academic community after attending the degree programs and postgraduate. Apart from this reality, there is a growing number of studies that have been commissioned to analyze the difficulties encountered by the university student at the time of carrying out a work of
Carlino points out that these difficulties are responsible for only a small number of doctoral students who embark on this path successfully complete it. This opinion is based on specific figures provided by this author in her research, saying that only 48% in Australia, 50% in the US or 14.8% in Argentina of students who complete the graduate program manage to complete
his doctoral thesis. Di Stefano provides more general data, but they come to coincide with these figures, noting that the rate of students who finally obtain the graduate degree is between 7% and 20% in Argentina, compared to the countries English-speaking, where they finish between 40% and 50% of candidates.
The cause that generates this situation, that of the low number of members that conclude the maximum academic distinction, is multiple, polyhedral, and affects the doctoral students in an unequal way, since they are multiple and diverse also for each individual the difficulties that are in the process of elaborating the final writing of the thesis. However, according to Arnoux and others these can be classified mainly into two types: the difficulties of the complexity -both conceptual and discursive- that involves the writing process of the writing and the general ones, referring to the time and effort devoted to carry out this company. Based on this division, in our article we distinguish between internal difficulties, to refer to the first ones, which deal with the intrinsic issues to the process of construction of the thesis and external, to refer to the emotional states that the thesis experiences and how they affect the project.
Internal difficulties in the preparation of the thesis
An interesting work that reflected many of these difficulties noted above is that led by Professor Elvira Arnoux at the Institute of Linguistics of the University of Buenos Aires, developed within the framework of the Writing Research and Knowledge Production Program in the careers of postgraduate studies, and that analyzed the contextual factors that affect the
production of a thesis and identified the specific contexts that facilitate or hinder its elaboration. The first contextual factor highlighted by this author is that the graduate student enters a new culture that is completely unknown, nor is he aware that in order to face this new challenge he requires certain tools and channels of expression that he ignores and those who have not been trained. Vargas refers to this situation when he talks about the student who “arrives at the university without the ability to give a logical order to thinking” and the complexity of a whole new learning process that this entails.
The bibliography on this subject indicates that this fact occurs in each and every one of the different levels of schooling, that is, that the student who passes from the secondary level to the university level
he experiences a series of cultural changes that are a direct consequence of the imbalance between the knowledge acquired in the middle school and the requirements of the higher level, which is described as a process of acculturation. The same happens in the transition from undergraduate to postgraduate studies, in which the student enters a new academic culture with specific values, guidelines and speeches that are not usually made explicit to new members, but in an underground way. they infer by evaluative tasks as a consequence of the elaboration of written works. These forces the student to assume a new enunciative position that implies an identity change by which he is required to abandon his passive attitude as a consumer to become a producer. In conclusion, they demand from the student a higher capacity for which they have not been sufficiently prepared, as Di Stefano says: postgraduate writings demand an extension, an original level of conceptualization, a higher degree of knowledge integration and an ability self-organization and regulation of autonomous work that can only be vehicled through a writ domain difficultly obtained in previous stages.
Within the university context, it is undoubtedly the thesis genre that presents the most difficulties due to its structural and discursive complexity, in which the author has to formulate problems and hypotheses,
contrast the previous studies, spin the expository elements with the argumentatives and compose the final wording of the text itself. Despite this evident complexity, the postgraduate courses that confront it reach these writings with little formative experience in academic genres. During their university journey they have
had only access to the examination, monograph and presentation formats in most cases, being the monograph the one that comes closest to the writing of the thesis, although without counting on the
specificity in the structure of the gender it has.
But perhaps the most complicated – and in what the authors cited in this section agree – is the fact that intermediate goals are not perceived during the writing process of the thesis. At this point lies the biggest difference between degree courses and doctoral courses, since the latter, unlike degree courses, require a high level of self-organization by the writer. Therefore, the construction of this research project becomes a titanic task that requires conciseness in the writing and a progressive reduction of the first drafts that synthesize the arguments discussed in the sources consulted and avoid unnecessary redundancies. In order to do so, it is essential to narrow down the topic and select the most appropriate bibliography, reorganize the contents, order the chapters and
know how to terminate each of the parts that make up the writing without extending in endless and unsuccessful corrections. In this sense, regarding the organization of the task of writing the thesis, the words of Carlino’s doctoral thesis are revealing: “To end the task, to give up what my imagination supposes that I could have done and not I did, it’s part of
this learning. ” Among other things, this statement is justified because this writing will not be – in the great majority of cases – the author’s masterpiece, but only a first step to continue investigating later, so the doctoral student must learn to put limits to his writing. In other words, the thesis is made to participate in the future in the academic world, and the more time is spent on it, the more time is lost in reaching the final goal. The lack of experience in the organization of the process of developing the thesis with which the doctoral student faces this new challenge, added the lack of models and ignorance of the path that the thesis must follow until reaching the goal of the construction process of a doctoral thesis, since the students only have samples of the finished product. This lack of models also implies the ignorance of the cognitive processes that intervene in the composition of a thesis when starting in a
new research culture: “doing a thesis is usually the way to start in the culture of research, whose practices and core values tend to await newcomers implicitly.” In relation to this Carlino points out that when the researcher undertakes the writing of the thesis, he can not, in any way, anticipate the challenge that awaits him or the feelings that
You will often experience during the process, such as disorientation and loneliness, as it is referred to in the next article.