Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Indological reviews at "Dissertation reviews"?

Dissertation reviews is a website providing "friendly, non-critical reviews of recently defended dissertations". It depends on volunteers who signal and review dissertations. It is nicely designed and allows for comments, which is a major plus, in my opinion.
However, I cannot understand why in order to be "friendly" a review should avoid completely any "direct or indirect" criticism. Constructive criticism seems to me an important part of friendliness. And a reader needs to know whether it is worthwile to do the effort to try to get the dissertation (a difficult enterprise in many cases, and an expensive one in all others).

Nonetheless, as part of my wider project of trying to initiate discussions on Indian philosophy, I am considering reviewing dissertations for the website. And I will be friendly and non-critical (although not a-critical).

What do you think? Do you know the website? Consult it? And do you have dissertations to suggest (including your own one)?

On my other projects on the same line, see this post and this one (about posting book-reviews on Amazon or Philpapers) and this one (on publishing with non-Indological publishers).


Jayarava said...

I don't know about the website, but I have heard of this problem with criticism. My informant was a retired professor who said that in the US a bad review can affect tenure and so US journals are rejecting critical reviews and articles.

It seems to me to be a very bad development.

I've sometimes been shocked and dismayed at the rude comments coming from anonymous peer reviewers. But even the petty stuff gives you information. I should say that journal editors tend to be kinder than the anonymous reviews.

elisa freschi said...

Hi Jayarava!
Yes, no criticism is bad (how can one improve?), but rude comments are also bad (I get defensive when they become too bad and after a certain level, I risk not to take them any more). Maybe putting one's signature at the end is not a bad idea after all (one will be more careful).

Michael Slouber said...

My dissertation is being reviewed by Dagmar Wujastyk and will be posted on Dissertation Reviews in the next couple of weeks.

I may have still submitted it without the promise of a positive review, but it certainly gives me peace of mind that if, heaven forbid, the review is scathing, I am not ruining my chances of a successful career by submitting my work for review. It is understood that the reviewer will also send critical feedback to the writer privately, and I made sure to specifically encourage my reviewer to do so, because of course I want to improve on any weaknesses.

It is a shame that in this day and age we need to worry about the expense and difficulty of getting a dissertation. Many institutions make them available for free open-access download a few months after they are submitted.

I think that the dissertation reviews are a nice way to get a second opinion on a work, in addition to the abstract and contents, before investing one's time in actually reading it.

elisa freschi said...

Thank you very much, Michael, this is exactly the sort of comment I was hoping for (i.e., one explaining the point of view of people who are happy with the policy of Dissertation Reviews). I can understand your point and it is surely the case that a merely positive review is better than no review at all, and I will certainly collaborate with DR. Nonetheless, I think one could fear friendly criticism less, especially if it aims at initiating a fruitful discussion.

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