Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Heydon, Rachel


multiliteracies, multimodality, higher education, technology, communication, dissertations, graduate education

In an era when communication and higher education are rapidly changing, there is much to learn about multimodality and the dissertation. For example, how can multimodality be used to forward an argument or inform research in a dissertation? How is technology changing the format of the dissertation? And how might multimodality and technology change the experience of composing a dissertation? This study addresses dissertations and the problem of understanding how research can be argued, represented, and presented in multimodal ways, and considers the lived curriculum of Ph.D. graduate students. My work addresses the learning needs of contemporary graduate students so that they may present their dissertation in multimodal ways. The research questions explored in this study are: what are the lived experiences of Ph.D. Education graduate students who created multimodal dissertations? What is my lived experience as someone conducting a multimodal Ph.D. dissertation in Education? What do students understand to be the affordances and constraints of multimodal dissertations? What do I understand to be the affordances and constraints of my research process? And what are the implications of promoting multimodal dissertations in the social sciences? In this study, I define a multimodal dissertation as one that employs multiple modes in meaningful ways to communicate research. Using a multiliteracies theoretical framework, this exploratory case study includes five participants who have successfully defended a multimodal dissertation in a Faculty of Education in North America. Data collection methods include a personal journal, interviews, and a multimodal analysis of the participants’ dissertations. The findings reveal my participants’ lived curriculum (the stories they had as individuals, with their scholarly community, and with their dissertation) was very important to the creation of their dissertation. Further, my participants’ multimodal dissertations have resulted in accolades such as winning awards and receiving SSHRC grants; however, these positive experiences have been tempered by challenges such as technical difficulties and institutional requirements. Recommendations for further research include how to best support students who want to use a multimodal format for their dissertation, how supervisors and examiners assess these dissertations, and how the lived experiences of the graduate students currently completing multimodal dissertations impacts their work. This study contributes to the body of knowledge in my field by creating new opportunities for alternative dissertation formats for future graduate students. It also contributes to the literature on multiliteracies and multimodality in higher education and the ways technology and communication are changing how students research, learn, and disseminate their findings.