When your professor muscles in: Your topic and coauthorship

frustrated academicAs an advanced graduate student, you face many hard situations: finally writing the dissertation, trying to explain to your family why you can’t spend any time with them, and breaking up the fistfights between your chair and committee members. In my work as academic coach and editor, and especially with clients who are at any of the torturous stages of their dissertations, I’ve noticed two other scenarios that can cause students great anxiety. The first is the professor’s suggestion of a dissertation topic. The second, later, is a professor’s offer to collaborate on a research article. [Read more…]

Choose your best dissertation chair

matchedIt is impossible to overestimate the significance of the student-advisor relationship. . . . This is both a personal and professional relationship that rivals marriage and parenthood in its complexity, variety and ramifications for the rest of one’s life. (Zhao, Golde, & McCormick, 2007, p. 263)

These wise observations were made by a new “doctor” in the study by Zhao et al. (2007) of how the doctoral students’ choice of chairs and their behavior affect the students’ satisfaction. The candidate quoted above echoes what many doctoral students learn, with ease or agony, during their dissertations. Your relationship with your chair (sometimes called advisor or supervisor) is absolutely the most important in your entire doctoral haul. [Read more…]

11/7 TAA Webinar, ” Writing Your First Book: Developing Your Dissertation Into a Manuscript”

Margaret PuskarPublishing your first book is imperative for many early-career scholars, but turning your dissertation into a book can be a confusing and difficult process. Join us Thursday, November 7, from 10-11 am ET for the TAA Webinar, “Writing Your First Book: Developing Your Dissertation Into a Manuscript”, where presenter Margaret Puskar-Pasewicz of MargaretEdits will discuss practical strategies and tips for bridging the gap between completing your dissertation and writing a compelling book manuscript. She will also share some of the most common mistakes that she’s encountered in her years as an academic editor and writing coach, the importance of staking a claim that you can defend consistently throughout your book as well as developing your scholarly voice.  [Read more…]

Musical chairs…and committees

In your dissertation trek, you may have a chair and committee who are steady, consistent, and infinitely supportive. If not, my condolences.

Students frequently describe their committees as just wanting to push those dissertations through, get their pittance, devote their time to revising and publishing their own (hard-won) dissertation, and jockeying for tenure. Graduate students also make the frequent mistake of thinking that their committees are reasonable, logical, well- organized, prompt about returning phone calls and manuscripts, and enjoying a balanced life, happy in their work. Rarely. [Read more…]

Are you whirling in the infinite loop of dissertation revisions?

If you’re writing your dissertation and have submitted your drafts to your chair and committee, you may have experienced a version of the infinite loop of revisions. The revisions may drive you crazy, but it’s actually possible to approach and handle them so they don’t erode your confidence (even more), deepen your depression, and thoroughly destroy your sanity.

A chair or committee’s cry for obsessive revisions can stem from one of two main motivations. Some professors can be perfectionist, vindictive, petty, and competitive, and their insistent revisions reflect less-than-healthy motivations. Other professors push you for revisions because they genuinely want a quality work, for you and for them (by reflection). Their comments are not personal, and they’re not out to get you. In fact, they likely see a publishable spinoff in your postdoc future. [Read more…]

Can spirituality help you with school?

MeditationAt first flash, spirituality and graduate school may seem to conflict. School requires your intellect; spirituality requires your surrender of intellect. School subsists on logic and realism; spirituality survives on faith.

I used to hold fiercely to these assumptions. Spirituality and school were completely contradictory, I thought, or at least separate.

Privately, though, I’ve often applied spirituality in my longtime academic practice of coaching and advising doctoral candidates wrestling with their dissertations. Spiritual practices have helped me forgive an ornery client, receive internal guidance for the next step on a daunting project, access the right assuaging words before a difficult meeting, and many other quandaries. [Read more…]

For lagging doctoral candidates: How to finish your dissertation and keep your family

work from homeIf you are in the throes of your dissertation, you probably realize that, other than yourself, your family is most affected by your dissertation, and they most affect your progress. It can be hard for family members to understand what you’re going through and must continue to endure for several years.

A poignant example from one of my dissertation coaching clients: Ava wailed to me, “I get calls daily from my mother, my three sisters, and my two cousins! They all say they’re tired of me not coming to the family events. I had to go to the reunion!”

Like Ava’s relatives, family can start squeezing you. [Read more…]

Can I help you in any way? Dissertation

Can I help you in any way? Dissertation“Hello, thank you for visiting. Can I help you in any way?” If you’ve browsed our TAA website, you’ve likely seen those words in the chat box that appears on the screen. We’re often asked by visitors if we’re “real”. Then those who realize that we are, and that we are there to help, ask questions that you may have as well.

In this series of “Can I help you in any way?” posts, we’ll highlight some of the questions people have asked through the TAA Live Chat feature of our site and the responses we have for those questions. In this post, we’re focused on questions about requirements related to writing a thesis or dissertation. [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: Focus on the practical dimensions of the research project

Focus studentsGenerally speaking, this may be the least common of the “bad feedback” issues that I see, but it can be crushingly bad feedback. Many, many professors try to force their students to look at the practical dimensions of the project and try to get the students to do less. Almost every professor I ever worked with told me some variation of “do less,” and many students with whom I’ve worked have also been told to try to do less, so I know it’s no rare idea, but some students could really benefit from this advice.

I have two main suggestions here: 1. Get the students to reduce the scope of their project if possible and reasonable, and 2. Explicitly focus on the practical dimensions as a reason to make the project smaller in order to reduce the emotional impact of being told to do less.  [Read more…]

Dear dissertation advisers: Make sure student has defined the research purpose and question

Disseration adviceDefining a good research question is crucial to developing a successful research project, and it is no easy task. For some, defining a good question comes easily, but for many, especially doctoral candidates who may have never developed their own research project before, it is a great hurdle. And, as I suggested in the previous post, if the research purpose and question aren’t defined, then there’s no point in your looking at other stuff: if your student hasn’t defined the research purpose clearly, they’ll have trouble making progress.

A good definition of research question or purpose is not only crucial, it’s usually really easy for a reader to find in skimming through a paper. Most drafts have several sentences that say things like “the purpose of this research is…” and “the research question is…”. These sentences need to be clear, and they need to agree with each other (multiple conflicting statements of purpose can often be found in early drafts of research). [Read more…]