Dr. Marianne Di Pierro
(Link to past notes)
Quality Circle Reviews: Let the Power of the Circle Work for You!
By Marianne Di Pierro, Ph.D.
What is a Quality Circle Review?
A quality circle review is a process similar to the one used by reviewers of research grant proposals and in some respects resembles the dissertation committee. These review circles are often comprised of specialists - individuals internal to your field of expertise, and generalists – individuals external to your field of expertise. As readers of your dissertation or research grant proposal, both groups have distinct advantages and serve the writer by offering opportunities to clarify and strengthen the writing and to ensure that the linguistic frame of the document rests in accord with the conceptual plan of development.
Specialists in your field of expertise are already familiar with the language and current scholarly conversations relevant to your particular discipline, and so they read your work with an accepted understanding of the terms, practices or issues. However, when writing for the generalist population, you, as writer, will have to step outside of your field of expertise and clearly respond to those places in the text where understanding is not a given. Generalist readers, whether they are readers of dissertation or grant proposals, offer a rich context of ideas to receptive writers, and their questions, concerns, and insights provide authors with an excellent opportunity to improve the quality of the final document.
The Quality Circle Review lends a critical objectivity to the writing process that is not always present when we review our own writing. As writers, we know what we intend to say: whether we’ve truly said it or not is the issue – and the very point in electing to submit your work for review. Whether you are authoring a proposal for funding or drafting chapters of the dissertation, it is wise to consider the value of a quality circle review.
What happens in a Quality Circle Review?
The student whose chapter is being reviewed is asked to sign a Confidential Disclosure Agreement, a document that safeguards the confidentiality of and restricts access to the “Information” – in this instance, the student’s research.
Readers sit at a conference table, each with a copy of the dissertation chapter that they have previously reviewed. They will have already engaged in a close textual reading that permits for the emergence of questions or comments regarding the logical /linguistic frame of the argument. The facilitator moves the review team through the chapter, section by section, and asks for the participants to comment on the efficiency of each section. Particular attention is paid to conceptual development, logic of argument, exposition, and organization.* The student receives constructive criticism, suggestions, and recommendations to strengthen and improve the quality of the chapter.
The student whose work is being reviewed should be actively engaged in the process more as a listener than a speaker. However, on occasion, the student may be called upon to explain/clarify certain points that the reviewers thought problematic or that warranted further explanation. The student takes notes on his or her copy of the dissertation chapter and annotates reviewers’ comments.
The review sessions are conducted in a positive atmosphere of respect, kindness, and support. The review team’s main objective is to provide their colleague with the opportunity to enhance the quality of his or her dissertation chapter by constructing or building inroads to this end.
* The review team will not edit your chapter by rewriting/rephrasing sentences or addressing mechanical or grammatical problems. However, the team will alert you to these concerns, especially if such issues appear as features of your writing style.
How many participants generally serve in a Quality Circle Review?
Review teams are ideally comprised of five participants, but also can be convened with fewer than five: two doctoral candidates* internal to your field of expertise; two doctoral candidates* external to your field of expertise. The director of the Graduate Center for Research and Retention serves as the fifth reader and group facilitator. Students requesting a review will coordinate with the director in identifying appropriate colleagues within their same field of expertise.
*Doctoral students who have taken the comprehensive exams or are about to take them may also serve on the review team.
How much notice does the Graduate Center require in order to schedule a Quality Circle Review?
We will need three weeks’ notice so that we can make arrangements to organize the circle of readers, disseminate and review the material, and reserve a conference room.
How do I schedule a Quality Circle Review?
Contact Dr. Marianne Di Pierro, Director of the Graduate Center for Research and Retention, at 387. 8249 or by email at email@example.com.
How long does a Quality Circle Review last?
Generally, reviews last one to two hours, depending upon the issues to be addressed.
At what point in the dissertation process is it best to schedule a Quality Circle Review?
We will schedule a Quality Circle Review after your dissertation proposal has been formally approved, with the appropriate form completed and signed by your committee. We require a copy of the Dissertation Proposal Approval form. [pdf] [doc]
How much of my dissertation can I submit for a Quality Circle Review?
The review process can be extended to any one chapter of the dissertation that you or your advisor decide needs additional work or just a simple check.* We ask that you always include Chapter I (the overview of the dissertation) with your submission and that you submit documents electronically. We also ask that you tell us your concerns – what you don’t like about the chapter or why it may be problematic. We also want to know what you like about the chapter.
*Due to resource constraints, we can offer the review opportunity only once per doctoral student.
What happens at the end of the Quality Circle Review?
At the conclusion of the session, all documents (dissertation chapters) are returned to the student, as outlined in the Confidential Disclosure Agreement. Students reserve the right to implement those changes they think best compliment their work and are not coerced into adopting reviewers’ recommendations. After the review session, the director provides an overview report to the dissertation advisor.
“Why should I serve on a Quality Circle Review? – I have my own dissertation to write.”
The commitment to reading and reviewing someone else’s writing is a substantial one; after all, doctoral students are busy people. However, the process of lending a critical eye to your colleagues’ work helps YOU to better understand, and avoid, the potential pitfalls in crafting the monograph. Moreover, you will have an opportunity to review successful examples that reinforce your own learning about the dissertation process. After all, you’ve never traveled down this path before, and strategies that illuminate the pathway are a good thing – a “win-win” for all participants!
If you have questions or require additional information, contact me at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 387.8249.
The Graduate Center for Research and Retention assists graduate students in writing doctoral dissertations and grant proposals for external funding by conducting quality-circle reviews of these documents and by providing a comprehensive program of workshops structured to enhance students' success in the attainment of their doctoral degrees. Derived from an innovative concept, The Graduate Center for Research and Retention has been in existence since May 2001. Since that time, the center has developed and implemented many programs structured to address the specific needs of doctoral students and graduate faculty. It recognizes the distinct challenges that confront graduate students and understands the critical need to create programs that will place structure and form on the process of writing the doctoral dissertation and assisting students in meeting this requirement. Current programs prepare students to address the challenges through a series of incremental programs. In addition to creating programs that foster a sense of connection, autonomy, and cohesiveness are those that provide the opportunity for students to advance their research scholarship and to enhance their academic standing in the professional community through the attainment of external funding for their research. Discipline-specific grant writing workshops are structured to reflect the research needs of students in those respective fields. Moreover, the center's programs encompass the professional development of graduate faculty, particularly as it relates to the advising process and includes workshops on advising strategies based in qualitative and quantitative methodologies, mentorship responsibilities, communication skills enhancement, and time management techniques.
The Graduate Center for Research and Retention offers one-on-one conferencing to assist in all phases of the dissertation process. Students and graduate faculty interested in learning more about the center and its functions are encouraged to contact the center director, Dr. Marianne Di Pierro by telephone at 269-387-8249 or by email at email@example.com.