About the Title of Your Dissertation :


P.S. Ruckman, Jr., Rock Valley College

Patrick A. Stewart, University of Arkansas

An association of scholar-wanna-be's from Illinois recently met to consider the "colon principle." The "principle" asserts dissertation authors aspiring to be taken seriously appear to be convinced that the title of their work must include the use of a colon (we note the radiating effect of the principle with respect to conference papers, especially those that are re-hashed versions of previous conference papers). Our repeated (three) searches of dissertation titles in PS: Political Science confirmed the veracity of the "principle" again and again.

We considered constructing a multivariate turbobit model of colon use (a mathematical modeling technique created by Mr. Stewart as a result of his understandable disgust with the all too familiar shortcomings of logit, probit, tobit and scobit), but a severe lack of variance rendered the project abruptly silly. Nonetheless, we have little doubt that such a model - had we bothered to construct it - would have explained a minimum of 103-7 percent of the variance in dissertation titles. In sum, we judge the colon norm as firmly entrenched as many other primary academic norms (e.g. citing one's own work - regardless of its relevance, ignoring the work of members of the profession who offend you - regardless of its relevance, holding a pen in your hand while your work is being "discussed" at a panel, nodding your head and pretending to write the comments of your discussant when she/he has said something patently ridiculous, using the word "interesting" as a panel chair or discussant, etc.).

We are, of course, bothered by the complete lack of published research on dissertation titles in general. The dissertation title is, after all, the only portion of the dissertation that is likely to be carefully read by readers of PS: Political Science, potential employers, friends and relatives at the graduation ceremony and second and third field committee members. Rampant inattention with respect to the correlates of colon employment has, however, prompted us ponder a manner in which to assist the advanced graduate student. Even Uncle Wuffle (1989) fails to address this critical issue. In an effort to raise colon consciousness, we compiled a list of items which we feel constitute an impressive array of words, phrases, or symbols that one does not want to follow the colon in one's dissertation title.

       : Myth? or Fiction?
       : Who Could Ever Know?   
       : The Effect of the 1964 Civil Rights Act on 1958 School Desegregation Policy
       : How Attitudes Could Not Possibly Predict Behavior
       : An Analysis of Two Scatterplots
       : A Comparison of Trueman, Eastman, and Doll
       : Putting the "Histo" Back Into Histogram
       : The Misplaced Emphasis on Theory
       : Patterns of Emotional Responses to Rational Choice Theories 
       : A New Cure for Outliers
       : A Factor Analysis of Chaos
       : A Skeptical View of the Idiots Who Do Critical Analysis
       : Coding Schmoding!
       : The Effects of Bribery on Inter-coder Reliability
       : The Overestimated Effects of Missing Data on Small N's
       : Does Political Efficacy Matter? 
       : A Recursive Model of Congressional Communication with Constituents
       : How Political Culture Determines the Scope of Natural Disasters
       : What God Thinks about Homoskedasticity
       : Does the Extensive Utilization of Polysyllabic Phraseological Embellishments, Verbal
             Ornamentation and Phonetic Adornment Exacerbate Attention Deficit Disorder or
             Have Empirical Consequence for the Validity of a Survey Instrument?
       : Theorists Who Run With the Methodologists, and the Community Colleges That Hire
       : A Dichotomous Model of U.S. Citizenship in Kansas
       : A Reevaluation of My Previous Thoughts
       : The Evil Consequences of Normative Analysis
       : How the Replicability Criterion Maintains the Bourgeoisie
       : A Focus Group Perspective on Groupthink
       : A Content Analysis of Deconstructionist Literature
       : Is Covariance Really All That Necessary?
       : How Co-authorship Affects R2
       : An Unusual Zero-Order Bivariate Relationship
       : Divine Intervention as a Pulse or Step Function
       : Non-recursive, or Just Simple Two-Way Causation?

We recognize, of course, that this list - while exhausting - is not exhaustive. And we certainly encourage further research in this generally overlooked area of concern. More importantly, we hope that this piece will be cited and no one will particularly notice (or raise specific concerns about) the additional three lines which this publication will contribute to our VITA's.

About the Authors

P.S. Ruckman, Jr. knows more about Cosima Wagner than the average person and modestly aspires to have his last name no longer singled out by word processing system spell checks. He uses silver CU31 aluminum bats and is currently researching the effect of Jack Daniels' on the teleological suspension of ethics. His dissertation title contains a colon. His last girlfriend was a major league colon.

Patrick A. Stewart converted to political science when he saw GAMMA highlighted in a stream of light, accompanied by the inscription BY THIS SIGN THOU SHALT ASSOCIATE ORDERED PAIRS. He wears the hand-me-downs of his three sisters. His last five paper proposals have been rejected by panel conveners. Tragically, they did not include colons.