If you want your student to finish…

Dear Dissertation Advisor,

Do you really want your dissertation candidate to finish? I am writing this blog because I don’t think you do. If you want your student to finish, here are the first three or so things I can think of that you ought to be doing and are not.

  1. Check your email, read the emails your student sends to you, and reply to your student in a cogent and timely fashion. Waiting till your student has flooded all your in-, e-, text messaging, social media, and voicemail boxes in a state of panic to remember “oh, yeah, I think I saw a subject line that had my student’s name it” or “I guess I forgot to press send a week ago, whoops” and then surreptitiously send whatever you should have sent days earlier without acknowledging your student’s efforts is truly like “freezing” your student out or “throwing the cold shoulder.”
  2. Pick up the phone and be a human, have a professional, respectful RELATIONSHIP with your student who is also a professional in the real world, in all likelihood. Be NICE (noble, intellectual, compassionate, empathic). Show some respect. Accept who is suffering here–and I’ll share a little hint: It’s not you. You were hazed too, but you don’t have to do it just because you lived through it.
  3. Remember that you probably have a graduate school level person (above your head) who will shred your control over your student’s edits and who will outrank your leadership over any dissertation. When that happens, as it will inevitably happen from the for-profit to the prestigious Tier I institution, don’t blame the student who didn’t know what you didn’t tell him or her. Don’t say, “but I thought you hired an editor” (really!?! that’s a cop-out). Accept responsibility, support the student, defend the paper’s lack of “correct APA” this graduate school reviewer claims if you want your edits and writing preferences to stick! Otherwise, avoid treating the student as an incompetent. That behavior of delegating responsibility to the powerless is just mean because you are the broker of power in this relationship and in this dissertation process.
  4. When your institution sends you material to send to the student, forward it. Maybe, kindly, comment that you did or didn’t read anything the institution sent to you that you have the responsibility for sharing with your student. Your student believes you care about him or her and assumes the worst when you do not provide your thoughts, which brings me back to the following necessary behavior: Be NICE (noble, intellectual, compassionate, empathic).


Dr. C, the Irreverant Professor & Rogue Coach


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Dr. C

13 years shadow advising over 120 dissertations and editing or wordsmithing countless documents. Integrity versus plagiarism expert and higher education junkie. AKA me as irreveranting professor, rogue coach, ad hoc academic, and researcher. Also, Rogue Athletics Gymnastics and Cheer business owner and Herbalife fan.

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