Category Archives: Help With Your Dissertation

Waiting for Feedback On Your Dissertation from Your Chair

So – you complete the first chapter of your dissertation. Before you proceed, you would really like to get some feedback from your chair. So, you print her off and give your professor a copy.

You wait a week. You run out patience and finally decide to ask the important question:

Had a chance to read my chapter?

What chapter?

Oops. They did not get it – or remember getting it.

So – this time you give them a print version and send the chapter as an attachment on an e mail,

A week passes.

Had a chance to read my chapter?

Oh – I’ll get to it in a few days …

A week passes …

Does this scenario sound familiar? During the past month – you are teaching your classes to undergraduates. You find yourself fidgeting as you continue to edit your first chapter – while wondering if your idea will fly. It is hard to be creative when the threat of a rejection hangs over your head.

Your writing becomes ponderous.You take more coffee breaks than are really necessary. You are cautious. The work finally comes to a standstill as you continue to wait. … and wait …. and wait.

Sound familiar?

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.

Difficulty of Getting Constructive Feedback on Your Dissertation

I learned early on as a faculty member that it was pretty easy and efficient to judge the work of others. You can easily spot issues with dissertations (and all research for that matter). Why?

There is no such thing as a perfect study. Every piece of research I have ever done, reviewed or read has issues. The only question turns on whether the research is good enough to pass through the scrutiny of a Ph.D. committee or the scrutiny of a journal review panel.

It really does not take much time to spot problems which you can always proclaim – as a faculty advisor – are “fatal flaws”. Of course, – there is really no such thing as a flaw which is fatal – it is just an issue that needs to be addressed in the review process.

When you hear a faculty member say that the study has a “fatal flaw” what is the underlying truth here? The underling statement is:

I do not have the time to think through the problem and help you solve it.

Why not you ask? This may seem like a cheesy cop out, but the truth in the pudding is that it takes a great deal of thought to suggestion solutions to many of the  problems that are flagged. Some of the problems you may be having are the same problems your professor is having with their own research.

When a faculty member declares that a dissertation proposal has a fatal flaw they do not have to torture themselves with working on how to solve the “flaw.” It is most likely the case that they can not even solve the “fatal flaws” in their own research.

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.

Why Do Doctoral Students Find it So Difficult to Get Help With Their Dissertations?

When entering into a Ph.D. program the hope is that feedback given on dissertations will be timely. Rapid turnaround will be the rule and the custom. After all, it is difficult to complete a Ph.D. program when months go by and you do not know where you stand.

Is your dissertation good enough? Is it passable? Does it need to be re-written before it is defended?

These questions are seldom answered. Few firm commitments are made about when a student can expect to finish.

My personal involvement with serving as chair and committee member of countless Ph.D. programs  is that students hear mostly about what is wrong with their work, but slow to hear what they need to do to fix their dissertations so they can be successfully defended.

This negative approach actually embodies the belief template of the academic culture. The focus is on what is wrong. The tendency is to criticize. The custom of the culture in academic life is to judge harshly – always.  It is not a good life for those with tender  hearts.

This is what happens in the review process of academic papers. One way to look at the process is simply to acknowledge that you are being indoctrinated into a culture that is light on positives and heavy on judgment.

If you are a person that needs to be nurtured and held – you best find another profession.

Robert Rodgers, Ph.D.