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Scholars, balance between humility and self-respect

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Whether you’re a doctoral student wrestling with the drafts of your dissertation or an academic author wrestling with the drafts of your article or book, you probably have encountered, or will, the often-intimidating presence and feedback of your chair or editor. As with any interpersonal relationship, it’s advisable to steer between abject obeisance and independent arrogance. Neither will get you what you want—approval of your dissertation or publication of your scholarly work. In my academic editing and coaching profession, I suggest to clients that an optimum way to establish and maintain a good working relationship is a combination of humility and self-respect. Whatever your past accomplishments, humility before the perceived power of the chair or editor is required. Not that you must kowtow; they’ll know you’re toadying. Some students and authors have stellar long-term experience, titles, and positions, and likely make more annually than their chairs or editors, not to mention owning lavish summer homes. Nevertheless, humility is called for with the dissertation chair or editor. Not easy, I know.

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