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.

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