On November 3, 2014, I defended my dissertation. Instead of augmenting my presentation with PowerPoint slides or a dynamic Prezi show, I chose to present an infographic created with a free tool called Piktochart. This visual summary of my research included its purpose, data findings, and future research needed on the topic. After my presentation, I felt that the graphical summary provided the attendees with a good overview of my research, and committee members congratulated me on my new doctor status with suggestions for very minor edits.

Prior to my defense, I had embedded the dissertation infographic on my personal website, and I also shared the link to that page to my personal Twitter and Facebook accounts. While I don’t have a substantial social media following, exactly one day after my dissertation defense, my Google analytics report detected 90 views to my infographic. The next day that number had increased to over 200 views. Today, that number is in the thousands.

Surprising, right? Have you written a dissertation? How many views has it had? The main argument of my dissertation rhetoric is that, in today’s world — where information is ubiquitous and often unreliable — we scholars have the ability to reach a vast number of people by pursuing innovative ways to disseminate our research findings. In my opinion, this is our duty as educators. Unfortunately, academia’s box is framed by very sturdy walls. Even though I presented my infographic to the committee and the world via social media, I still wrote and published (via ProQuest) a very traditional five-chapter written document.

In this document, I presented a case study of the acceptance of new media projects as Ed.D. capstone experiences. I decided to pursue this topic after a period of mourning a rejected new media project proposal that I was very passionate about. While I was very disappointed that my original project was not approved, the experience ignited a curiosity about investigating other Ed.D. granting institutions’ views about new media projects being used as capstone experiences; the rationale for the acceptance, rejection, and neutrality towards such new media projects; and factors that influence the acceptance, rejection, and neutrality of those projects. It is important to highlight that all participants surveyed were provided with the following definition of new media:

New Media are the aesthetic properties of data and the basic ways in which information is created, stored, and rendered intelligible (Manovich, 2001). It can assume many forms and it evolves and morphs continuously (Socha & Eber-Schmid, n.d.).

I’ve included sections of my infographic here that explain my research purpose and methodology:

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Here I unload some of the terms and methodology:

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Here are some significant points in my findings:

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The majority of the participant institutions currently reject new media projects as Ed.D. capstone experiences. Upon analyzing the data, I was able to group the responses into major categories. The most common reasons for the rejection of new media projects as Ed.D. capstone experiences were: unfamiliarity, government sanctions, and a strong bias toward traditional dissertations.

The justification of unfamiliarity to me was very bothersome. Educators should model lifelong learning practices. If a topic is of interest to a student, and they are very passionate about it, a mentor should use that opportunity to learn more about that topic through this novel experience. Government sanctions were also given as a reason why certain institutions did not accept new media projects; however, upon review of those states’ sanctions, I was able to confirm that none of the institutions had concrete documentation prohibiting the acceptance of new media projects as Ed.D. capstone experiences. The third reason was that traditional dissertations are perceived to mean a traditional research study, which results in a book-like product. Unfortunately, there are so many ways in which scholarship can be disseminated, especially in the digital age, yet tradition continues to dominate the academic arena.

You might be asking now:

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My dream is that one day graduate students will be able to pursue their interests, and with the support and guidance of their dissertation mentors and committees, will use new media projects in any part of their research processes. Students and their committees should work together to push the boundaries of scholarship, and decide on a format that fits their knowledge of the subject matter, the needs in that field, and the student’s research goals. Nonetheless, I would vouch for formats that inspire curiosity, interest, and engagement with students, experts in that discipline, and everyone else who happens across it.

If you are interested in learning more about my infographic dissertation, please visit www.addymeira.net/dissertation or www.doctoraddytolliver.com.

About The Author

Profile photo of adelinemeira@gmail.com

Dr. Adeline “Addy” Meira Tolliver is an Adjunct Professor as well as an Instructional Technologist at Texas Wesleyan University's Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). Her doctoral degree is in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Instructional Technology from the Baylor University School of Education (Dissertation title: Rethinking the Dissertation: a Case Study on the State of Acceptance of New Media Projects as Ed.D. Capstone Experiences). Prior to working at Texas Wesleyan she has worked as a graduate assistant for the Baylor Online Teaching and Learning Services and was a Graduate Fellow at the Baylor Academy for Teaching and Learning. She has also worked at the Baylor University Digital Media Studio, the School of Education Media Center, and was an Instructor for TED 3380 (Social Issues in Education), TED 1112 (Technology) lab, and the graduate level EDC5370 (Technology Fundamentals).