Thought-Leaders Convene to Consider the Future of the Doctoral Dissertation
    February 10, 2016

    Workshop Proceedings, Social Media Offer New Picture of Issues on the Horizon


    Contact: Katherine Hazelrigg
    (202) 461-3888 /


    Washington, D.C. — On January 27-28, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) convened approximately 40 scholars and leaders in graduate education, scholarly publishing, academic libraries, and disciplinary associations to deliberate the future of the doctoral dissertation.  Over a two-day workshop supported by ProQuest, the group considered trends shaping the format and dissemination of dissertation research, including new modes of scholarly communication and publication, open access, emerging technologies, diversifying PhD career paths, and changes in disciplinary cultures.


    Brief papers prepared and circulated ahead of the workshop enabled attendees to focus on big-picture questions affecting the enterprises of scholarly communication and graduate education, including:


    • What is a dissertation? What is its purpose? Who are its audiences?
    • What skills are or should be gained as a result of writing a dissertation?
    • What new dissertation formats should be considered?
    • How should dissertation research be archived, accessed, and disseminated?
    • What is the role of the dissertation in the employment marketplace?


    These questions contributed to a wide-ranging conversation about why the dissertation exists and whom it serves. For some participants, the dissertation is of primary importance to the student-author and an opportunity to build skills, demonstrate expertise, and earn a credential. For others, the main audience of the dissertation is the student’s committee or the disciplinary community. Still others wondered whether the dissertation should contribute something of value to society at large.

    By the workshop’s conclusion, it was clear that the many futures of the dissertation depend on the purpose of doctoral education as a whole. In her closing remarks, CGS President Suzanne Ortega shared her view that the goal of graduate education is to educate “individuals who can ask and answer questions of importance.” For Dr. Ortega, the dissertation represents both students’ “demonstration of the capacity to utilize the tools (theoretical, methodological) of their discipline to identify and address a relevant question” and an “opportunity to develop a set of intellectual skills and habits of mind that have broad utility.”


    Austin McLean, Director, Scholarly Communication and Dissertations Publishing at ProQuest said, “We are delighted to support this workshop related to the future of dissertations, an area of great significance to ProQuest.  Dissertations make an important contribution to the scholarly record, raise the profile of an institution and their authors, and are vital tools for researchers of all fields in all countries.  By convening this important conversation about the future of the dissertation, the Council of Graduate Schools is ensuring that graduate education will continue to produce graduates with valuable skills needed as part of a 21st century workforce.”


    Proceedings may be accessed at and the parallel conversation that emerged during the workshop on Twitter may be found at #DissFwd. The event was the capstone of a CGS Best Practice project on the Future of the Doctoral Dissertation

    The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of approximately 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.


    About ProQuest (

    ProQuest connects people with vetted, reliable information. Key to serious research, the company’s products are a gateway to the world’s knowledge including dissertations, governmental and cultural archives, news, historical collections, and ebooks. ProQuest technologies serve users across the critical points in research, helping them discover, access, share, create, and manage information.

    The company’s cloud-based technologies offer flexible solutions for librarians, students, and researchers through the ProQuest®, Bowker®, Coutts® information services, Dialog®, Ex Libris®, ebrary®, EBL™, and SIPX® businesses – and notable research tools such as the Summon® discovery service, the RefWorks® citation and document management platform, MyiLibrary® ebook platform, the Pivot® research development tool, and the Intota™ library services platform. The company is headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with offices around the world.

    Media Contact:
    Nicola Bacon
    PR Manager ProQuest
    +44 7983 021960


    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national voice for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource on issues regarding graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS collaborates with other national stakeholders to advance the graduate education community in the policy and advocacy arenas.  
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.