Like all writers, scholars depend upon words used as precisely as possible. In contemporary academic English, “thesis” and “dissertation” are almost interchangeable, and in this book I’ll use them that way merely to provide some variety. A thesis can, of course, be a master’s thesis or an undergraduate thesis, but a dissertation is always written for a doctoral degree. The dictionary’s succinct definition of a dissertation omits any mention of a proposition to be defended, and length seems to be the dissertation’s principal characteristic. A thesis might be very brief indeed. Martin Luther came up with ninety-five of them, and crammed them all onto a document correctly sized for a church door. For modern-day academics, a dissertation is expected to contain a thesis, that is, this lengthy exposition of evidence and analysis is supposed to contain a core argument. It might be said that the thesis inhabits and animates the dissertation. Unfortunately, it sometimes seems, at least to publishers, that the thesis—the heart of the dissertation—has stopped ticking. Argument gone, all that is left is length.
Social networks (Facebook, Orkut, MySpace, Bebo, LinkedIn) are not only changing the way that many people use the Internet, but they are also presenting marketing practitioners with new challenges when trying to reach and acquire customers online. At the same time, these social networks have their own challenges in trying to acquire and retain customers when many of the traditional principles of consumer behaviour no longer apply. As social networks become more popular, a marketing dissertation in this area would be up to date and in line with current trends.