Writing and Presenting Your
Thesis or Dissertation
S. Joseph Levine, Ph.D.
Michigan State University
East Lansing, Michigan USA
Note #15 Giving a voice to our subjects.
For many of us the opportunity to do a thesis or a dissertation is the first big opportunity to do
our own research. It can be a bit scary/intimidating. However, that all seems to be forgotten at
some point in our research when we realize that we have a wonderful opportunity to say things
which will be listened to by many others. WOW! I can finally say some things to which others
But what will I say? What if others in my field don’t agree with what I am saying? What if my
research has no significant findings to report and there really is little for me to say? What if I
accidentally interpret the findings wrong and say the wrong thing? These sorts of questions can
make me realize that maybe my research is not all about me.
If my research isn’t all about me then who is it all about? This question - Who is the focus of
my research? - is at the center of much of the research we will do throughout our professional
careers. And I think there is one really good answer to this question. I think the focus of our
research must be the subjects of our research. Our research is all about our subjects - and not
After all, the data we collect really aren’t about us. These data are about our subjects. It is the
way our subjects think. It is about the way our subjects perceive. It is the way our subjects
understand different things. It is the way they answer questions or act in different situations.
They have shared it with us and they trust us to represent them well.
Our challenge as researchers is to give a voice to our subjects. It is up to us to ask the right
questions and to present the data in such a way that it seems as if our subjects are talking to
the reader. We must be challenged to find words that will help our subjects talk clearly, loudly,
and with impact. We must be careful to only write words that represent the voice of our
subjects. We can not forget and write words that only represent us. Our own voice must never
get in the way of the voice of our subjects.
If we follow this rule to give a voice to our subjects we will never have to ask the question
– “But what will I say?” Because we are not concerned with what we will say – we are only
concerned with what our subjects will say. Our role as a researcher is to help our subjects do
the talking through the words we write.
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Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation