Tough love for dissertation drafts

As a dissertation editor and coach, I have much empathy for beleaguered doctoral graduate students wrestling with their tomes. Many candidates seem to get little support from their chairs in guidance, writing, or cheering on. However, a student recently brought to my attention an impressive exception.

At this university, the doctoral students were advised to maintain associations and seek dissertation feedback from their cohort members with regular group meetings. In addition, this chair, unlike many others, held bimonthly meetings (probably uncompensated) with his struggling dissertation students.

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: December 17, 2021

As we near the end of the calendar year, hopefully you are reflecting on your writing projects and establishing a plan for future efforts in the new year. In this week’s collection of posts from around the web we find both reflective and forward-facing content that may be of use in your personal writing efforts.

First, reflecting on what has been – whether tackling a revise & resubmit request, reconsidering a stalled book project, or turning your completed dissertation or thesis into a book.

Are you older than your professors? There’s hope

I immediately recognized Marlene’s voice on the phone. She was one of the brightest and most conscientious doctoral students I have ever served in my academic coaching and editing practice. An older student, “nontraditional,” Marlene had returned for her doctorate after three of her four kids were grown and on their own. She held down a full-time job in medical billing, and her youngest was now in high school, so Marlene embarked on a lifelong dream—she enrolled in a doctoral program. We were working together on the first of her course papers.

But now, instead of greeting me, Marlene fumed for ten minutes. Her professor had track-changed almost every page of her essay and added a four-paragraph single-spaced memo stuffed with questions. Marlene shouted over the phone, “I’m calling the doctoral police!”

Are you caught in relentless tides of dissertation revisions?

If you’re in the throes of writing your dissertation and have submitted your drafts to your chair and committee, you may have experienced a version of their seemingly endless rounds of revisions. Granted, they may drive you crazy, but—please believe me—you can to handle the revisions so they don’t erode your confidence (even more), deepen your depression, and thoroughly destroy your sanity.

A chair or committee’s insistence on ceaseless revisions generally stem from one of two main motivations. The revisions reflect less-than-healthy motivations for some professors who are perfectionist, vindictive, petty, and competitive.

Your own writing room(s)

My writing buddy’s face turned dark pink as she shouted over her latté. “No one can write anything decent without a private place!” She jabbed with her finger. “It’s gotta be your own!”

I was as adamant. “Oh, come on! All you need is the desire, will, and your stone tablet and sharp tool. It doesn’t matter where you write!”

Our little debate embodies two often-discussed viewpoints about writing. My vehement response to my friend brought up again my long puzzlement about the most effective place to write. Other writers have explored this topic, with many suggestions. They are all fine, but I believe something is missing. Especially if you’re in a quandary about where to write, I’d like to help enlarge your perceptions of your own physical and mental writing places, spaces, and times.

You are not your dissertation

In tears on the phone, my dissertation client Aurora wailed, “Chapter 2 is destroying me! I’ll be in this article gridlock for the next 10 years! I’m just not dissertation material!”

Aurora’s heartfelt confession was not unusual. In my longtime professional practice coaching struggling dissertation students, many have admitted feeling blocked in their writing, whether it’s Chapter 2, the dread literature review, like Aurora, or another chapter that particularly bedevils them. But Aurora’s assumption that she wasn’t “dissertation material” was particularly upsetting.