On Dissertations and Theses

Approximate Reading Time: 3 minutes

When I was writing my thesis I looked for examples of dissertations to get some ideas about how to formulate my own – you know general style, chapter organization, etc. It was suggested that I go to my school’s library and look at the theses that had been completed there in the last several years. It was a good idea. I did that. It didn’t help me even a little.

First off, I found NOTHING in my school’s library that had to do with games. That was a problem. Second, I noticed that the vast majority of dissertations in my field (Education) revolved around some sort of study – either some sort of case study, or some classroom study. I had NO examples of an Education dissertation that DIDN’T require Ethics Approval. Mine was not based on a case or classroom study. I ended up making up my own format, style, and chapter organizations. It worked out, but I felt like I was on my own. In the end, I owe the greatest debt to the Game Studies community at large: The Serious Games Initiative and DiGRA. The people in those communities were the ones who helped me to realize what was new about my work and how it might fit in to the field as a whole. So, before I go any further, THANKS!

This is one of the problems when working in: 1) a new field, and 2) a field that involves a high degree of interdisciplinarity. Finding examples of previous work may be a challenge, and, if your faculty and supervisor are not actually doing games in a serious way, then they are likely to be of little help. By serious way, I mean that they actually know the field, its scholars, and what’s happening in the area. This ESPECIALLY means that they must be familiar with game research written by people from other disciplines.  I can really only speak for Education faculty, but I have found that far too many are unwilling to look beyond their own borders. As a result, they often and up citing what in Games Research are ancient sources as though they are still significant. Games have changed too much. In many cases, something that was written before, say, 2001 is too old to be of anything beyond historical value. Dusty old references aside, it must also be recognized that some serious scholarly work gets done by people who (brace yourself) aren’t even academics. This is another place where many Education faculty have fairly parochial attitudes.

I’m starting to see more and more faculty getting ‘into’ games.  Without going into a long tirade about how many of these people only THINK they know what they are talking about, let me just say, there are a few things these people need to do if they want to make any kind of real contribution:

  1. PLAY GAMES – you can’t understand games if you don’t play any.
  2. Go to game conferences that are interdisciplinary.
  3. Get to know something about the industry. This is really not an academics-only kind of field.

If you don’t know the people in GAMES (as opposed to the people who talk about games in your field), the you don’t know enough to be of interest.

In order to complete my own thesis, I ended up having to hunt down dissertations on games myself. That gave me an idea.

Several months ago, I began to collect and chronicle master’s and doctoral theses that were about videogames.

It is here.

I started with just Canadian ones, but there seems to be some interest in posting others as well.

So, I am going to collect and post information about theses in Games Studies. BUT, here’s the deal. I actually have other things to do with my time so if you want yours on the list, you will need to format so I can add it easily.

Please send info on theses that are about DIGITAL GAMES ONLY (I am not interested in theses about Game Theory (i.e. math), ELearning, Virtual Spaces, Social Websites, Blogging, Graphics, AI, … UNLESS they specifically focus on applications to or for digital games).

This is the template I use to format the entries. If you fill in the blanks, it will make my life much easier. It will also increase the likelihood I will get around to posting your thesis sooner rather than later.  If I end up getting a big flood of theses, I will ONLY post those that come to me in the format I have requested.

===== Last name, First Name =====
[size=120%]**//TITLE: <put your title here>//**[/size]

^         Year:|<the year>  ||
^      Country:|Thesis: <institution's country>  |Candidate: <candidate's nationality (if desired)>  |
^       Degree:|<the degree awarded>  ||
^  Institution:|<name of institution>  ||
^   Department:|<name of department or school>  ||
^          URL:|<url to the thesis>  ||

**Abstract: **
<place your abstract here. Please be sure to leave a blank line between each paragraph.>

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