We (the cohort of first-year PhD students) have been told ad nauseam in the past two and a half weeks that the defining feature of a doctoral dissertation is its contribution to human knowledge. You’ve got to provide something new, something that no one else has done before or thought of in the same way.
I’m suddenly concerned about my ability to contribute to knowledge, partly, I think, because I’ve started to contemplate what contributing to knowledge actually means. I’m reasonably confident that I can contribute something beneficial to my field and that I’ll be able to come up with a fresh perspective on The Changeling in performance. I can say that I see gaps in research and that I hope to fill or begin to fill them. But is any of that really a ‘contribution to knowledge’? Or is it just a reconfiguring of existing knowledge?