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.

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