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Doctoral Dissertation Award


2020 Award Winners

2020 Winner

Sarah Joann Lubelski, Ph.D.

University of Toronto Faculty of Information

A Gentlewoman’s Profession: The Emergence of Feminized Publishing at Richard Bentley and Son, 1858-1898

Supervisor: Alan Galey

Biography: Sarah Lubelski received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information and the collaborative specialization in Book History and Print Culture in 2019. Her work, which explores the impact of gender on the publishing industry and publishing processes, has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Resource Council. She holds a BA in English and History from Dalhousie University and an MA with distinction in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University. She currently teaches the History of the Book and Publishing at the University of Toronto.

Research Abstract: My dissertation is an investigation of the gendering of the publishing profession, publishing practice, and print materials. Using the London-based firm of Bentley and Son as a site of inquiry, I trace women workers’ professionalization within the firm and their influence over print production and literary output, contextualized by nineteenth-century gender ideology and the women’s movement. My archival research into Bentley and Son’s women employees has uncovered hitherto untold histories of women’s publishing work within the nineteenth-century literary field, allowing me to challenge and reconstruct the historical narrative surrounding women’s entrance into publishing to account for gendered work and gender ideology.

Remarks from the Awards Committee: “We found this thesis to be an excellent interdisciplinary historiography that addresses a larger issue of feminization of the publishing industry by providing a history of a publishing house in the Victorian U.K. Although, the dissertation itself is examining a particular place and point in time, the author pointed out similar historical cases of feminization of professions. We especially appreciated how the author pointed the importance of this for current state of STEM fields and increase of number of women researchers.”

2020 Runner Up

Brian Dobreski

Syracuse University School of Information Studies

Values in Knowledge Organization Standards: A Value Analysis of Resource Description and Access (RDA) 

Advisor: Barbara H. Kwaśnik  

Biography: Brian Dobreski is currently an assistant professor at the School of Information Sciences at University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where his research and teaching focus on knowledge organization and its social implications. His dissertation research was also recognized with the Syracuse University iSchool 2019 Doctoral Prize, as well as an honorable mention for the ProQuest Doctoral Dissertation Award. Brian holds a B.Mus. from Nazareth College, and an MSLIS and Ph.D. from Syracuse University. He previously worked as a catalog librarian at the Eastman School of Music. 

Research Abstract: This study explores the relationship between values and knowledge organization standards as a means of understanding the embedded perspectives and non-neutrality of these technical documents. Taking the knowledge organization standard Resource Description and Access (RDA) as a case, this work focuses specifically on what values are present within this standard, how these values are communicated, and how they are recognized and responded to by practitioners. Findings demonstrate the integral nature of values in standards and reveal the ways in which these documents and their enactments serve to mediate community values. 

Remarks from the Awards Committee: “We found this thesis to be a very-well written and well-designed study of values embedded in knowledge organization standards. This is a very relevant, yet understudied topic, and the thesis presents an important contribution to knowledge organization research on values. The author uses a combination of methods (content analysis and interviews) in a two-phase design. The author also shows a mastery of relevant literature.”

Click here for more on Dr. Dobreski's dissertation.

2020 Doctoral Dissertation Award Call for Nominations

Note: This original call for nominations is provided as legacy information. The 2020 Award judging has concluded and the winners are listed above. Click here for more on all current and past winners.

The iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award recognizes outstanding work in the information field. Nominations are solicited from all members of the iSchools organization and judged by a selection committee drawn from leading international schools.

The winner receives a prize of $2,500 U.S., the runner up $1,000 U.S. Both honorees will also be offered a complimentary registration, should they wish to collect their award in person at the iConference; the winner also receives a small travel allowance to help offset costs. Past iSchools Doctoral Dissertation honorees can be viewed here.


Each member iSchool can nominate only one applicant for the award. The applicant should have successfully completed the final paperwork for their Ph.D. between July 1 2018 to June 30, 2019 (inclusive). The dissertation research can be on any topic in the information field, broadly defined, and use any methodology.


  • Nomination deadline: October 15, 2019
  • Decisions announced: Mid-December, 2019

Submission Materials for each Nomination

Submissions must be made by the representative who administratively signs off on Ph.D. matters (i.e., school’s Dissertation Chair or Doctoral Program Director, Postgraduate Research Committee Representative, or equivalent). Individuals cannot self-nominate.

The following three items should be submitted. The summary paper and letter must be submitted in English. The complete dissertation may be submitted in its original language, with the understanding that an English translation may be requested later, as explained under Review Process below.

  1. A summary paper of the dissertation research. The summary paper should be up to 10 double-spaced pages with 12 point Times New Roman font and at least one-inch margins (excluding the title page and the references), and should consist of three sections: Title Page, Body, and References. The Title Page should contain the title of the dissertation, author name, email, phone number, address, current institution, advisor name and contact information, degree granting institution, and dissertation completion date. The Body of the summary paper should provide a comprehensive summary of the dissertation, introducing, for instance, the topic, the research context and questions, the theoretical or contextual framework, the methodology and methods, and the findings. The summary paper should be written for blind review; hence, all identifying information should be removed from the body of the paper and, as necessary, the references. The first page of the Body should include title, an abstract for up to 200 words, and a list of keywords. Tables and figures can be embedded in the text or attached at the end; they count toward the 10-page limit. The References section should include a list of references formatted in any appropriate style. As noted above, the summary paper should be written in English.
  2. A letter from the dissertation chair or the Doctoral Program Director of the degree-granting institution. The letter attests that, (a) the summary paper is authored by the applicant only and is based on the applicant’s dissertation; (b) the applicant is eligible for the award (see Eligibility); and (c) the dissertation is regarded by the dissertation committee and the degree granting institution as being representative of the best level of their doctoral work. The letter should be in English.
  3. The complete dissertation. The dissertation can be in its orginal language, or in English.

The above three documents should each be formatted as a pdf, and then combined into a single zipped file; this file will be submitted to our secure submission website in time for the October 15 deadline.

Review Process

Awards submissions go through a rigorous two-phase review procedure. In the first phase, which is anonymous, each dissertation summary is reviewed and discussed by a team of three reviewers and one of the dissertation award co-chairs. Five dissertations are then chosen for closer scrutiny. In the second phase, a smaller committee reads and discusses the five shortlisted dissertations in great detail in order to make the final decision.

Judging criteria for the Award can be viewed here.

Past iSchools Doctoral Dissertation honorees can be viewed here.

2020 Doctoral Dissertation Award Chairs


Questions about the Doctoral Dissertation Award should be addressed to the chairs listed above.

For general questions about the iConference, please contact iConference Coordinator Clark Heideger.



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