The multimodal PhD framework

The multimodal PhD framework

Before my PhD proposal could be approved at the departmental level, part of the task was to necessarily develop a framework for the alternative, multimodal format for the Ph.D. dissertation. I worked collaboratively with my supervisor, Dr. Jennifer Rowsell, and Dean Michael Plyley to produce the following. It has been exciting to be involved in this process.


Multimodal Dissertation Format

A multimodal thesis/dissertation is a work in which the key component is a performance or piece of art. For multimodal theses or dissertations, part of the work can be produced in a digital or print format, but key elements of the dissertation experience rely on the exam committee’s direct experience with media, visuals, moving images, pieces of art, and performance.

Based on feedback from York University, University of Toronto, and Ryerson University, the following over-arching criteria are guidelines for multimodal theses:

• The scholar must have a written component
• There is a heavy emphasis on film, videos, slides, electronically interactive word/image-based text
• Key elements of the work depend on direct experience with or interaction with a text whose physical form
. may be changed as a consequence of the interaction.
• Students producing multimodal dissertations should consult with the institutional library to find out if the text . format is uploadable for the library and Theses Canada Portal ( on the
. Library and Archives Canada website for advice on formats.
• However, a student may work in an unsupported format as part of the oral exams as long as the work is
. readily accessible by the exam committee.

The list of components in the mulitmodal thesis follow the regulations, including the following components:

Prefatory pages (these components will be listed on the blog that complements the documentary):

• Library Release Form
• Frontispiece or Quote Page (optional); faces the title page
• Title Page
• Examining Committee Signature Page
• Abstract (not more than 150 words for master’s, 350 for
• doctoral).
• Preface (optional)
• Table of Contents (listing chapter heads and subheads,
• bibliographies, and appendices)
• List of Tables (if any)
• List of Figures or Illustrations (if any)
• List of Plates (if any)
• List of Symbols, Nomenclature, or Abbreviations (if any)
• Footnotes (if any) .
• Bibliography
• Appendices (if any)

Format of Thesis/Documentary:

• Five different mini-documentaries of various appropriate lengths for: introduction, literature review, method,
.  observations and illuminations
• A blog will be used to support the videos by extending the discussion in the event that expository dialogue
.  proves to be too much for the video format.
• A concise script will be written for each video to explain what is necessary to explain. Multimodal devices
.  such as illustration, animation, text, sound design, music, production design will assist in the explanation of
.  key concepts, as well as facilitate viewer engagement. It is important to recognize what each format (video
.  and blog) affords and limits; the intention is that the two formats will complement each others’ affordances
.  and limitations to execute a comprehensive and creative dissertation.

Format of the Blog:

• The blog will have posts pertaining to topics/issues raised in any of the 5 videos. These posts will be written
.  in scholarly jargon to resemble graduate level papers, and will be written in first-person to provide a self-
.  reflexive quality for which the blog format is appropriate.
• Each post will be categorized (i.e. “tagged”) according to the following categories, which represent the 5
.  dissertation chapters and the 4 stages in the creative process: rationale, literature review, methodology,
.  observations, illuminations, gathering inspiration/information, incubation, development, critique.
• The blogs will appear in reverse chronological order on the home page of the website where they’re
.  housed. The categories will be listed along the side so that the viewer can search posts in any given
.  category. There will also be a tab marked “Video” where each of the 5 videos will be imbedded from
.  YouTube and playable on the website. Lastly, there will be tab marked “About the Documentary” which
.  will explain the project and its intent, and a “Contact” tab which will have a fillable form for viewers to
.  email the researcher, Rebecca Zak.

Criteria for Multimodal Ph.D. Theses

A key criterion for assessing multimodal dissertations includes the following parameters:

1) that the art/multimodal work, in its address to the general public, is thought-provoking as a critique of
.   contemporary culture, or as a signpost of where culture is headed or as a form of pedagogy that promotes
.   awareness of cultural differences;
2) that the art work and moving-image piece contribute to the discourse of visual arts, because both the
.   process and the outcome are at a level that is of interest to historians of contemporary art;
3) that research/creation (as defined in the SSHRC Research/Creation grant program) is reflected in the
.   work, i.e. there is a clear research question, a contextualization within relevant theories and ideas, and
.   there is a clear methodological approach.

Posted by Rebecca Zak

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