The Department of History and Art History at George Mason University has recently approved guidelines for digital dissertations. While PhD students at several universities have already produced digital dissertations in the humanities, to my knowledge these are the first guidelines for born-digital dissertations created at the departmental level. The guidelines take a broad view of what producing a digital dissertation might entail. The primary author of the guidelines was my colleague Sharon Leon, who has written a post about how she put the guidelines together. These guidelines open a lot of room for graduate students to determine the form of their dissertations, while also providing some concrete guidance about the essential elements. I hope the guidelines clear the way for graduate students in our department to create the kinds of dissertations that they want. Graduate students should have room to be intellectual pioneers without having to always be institutional pioneers as well.
There are three things that I want to say about these guidelines.