A good working relationship with your dissertation chair can make the difference between finishing your dissertation, thesis or capstone, or languishing in the no man or woman’s land where an unfinished dissertation stands between you and a PhD or MA. This blog post will provide insight into the world of professors in research Universities and practical tips on forming a good working relationship with the chair of your committee.
University professors are generally very busy with teaching classes, doing research, and mentoring their graduate students. It is your job in the face of your chair’s hectic schedule and many pressures to, on the one hand, assert your needs for their time and expertise and, on the other hand, respect and understand their role and their limitations. I always advise my students to make a tight relationship with their chair and other key members of their committee.
Below are some practical steps you can take to make your dissertation chair a key ally and valuable resource:
Take the time and forethought to develop a good working relationship with the chair of your committee. Neglecting this relationship will lead to misunderstanding, inefficiency, and unhappy surprises in the course of your research. It could even lead to a breakdown in the process and impede your finishing your PhD or MA. Developing this relationship will allow you to reap the benefits of the wisdom and experience of your chair in academia, research, and the politics of your department in the University. A good chair whom you work well with can help you solve problems, find resources, and navigate the obstacle course that is your graduate program. They can also help you gain insight in your field through their understanding of research and your field of study. If you nurture this relationship and use some of the tips mentioned in this blog, you can develop a fruitful partnership with your dissertation chair and will gain a valuable ally in completing your work efficiently.
#All But Dissertation
A Research and Analysis Proposal (click to download white paper) is a great way to organize the hard work you've done on your dissertation and clear a path to finish the last hurdle to your diploma. I have written a white paper on how to (1) document your research questions and analysis, (2) get your chairs approval to move ahead, and (3) align all of your previous work with your clear path to finish your dissertation. Take a look at this white paper, and get your dissertation on track to your final destination - a PhD.
Click here to download the Research and Analysis Proposal template and white paper with a full explanation.
(click to download now!) The Dissertation Game Plan (click to download now!)
Whether you are just getting your dissertation started or you have finished all of your courses and are waist deep in the formidable task of completing a dissertation, everyone needs a game plan to complete their dissertation and go from doctoral candidate to PhD. The Dissertation Game Plan is a practical and realpolitik guide to shedding that annoying ABD (All But Dissertation) label and putting yourself into gear and moving toward dissertation completion!
The Dissertation Game Plan provides an excellent framework to (1) organize the enormous task and many parts to put in place to finish your dissertation, (2) effectively communicate with the critical stakeholders (mainly your dissertation chair) that will get you to the completion of your dissertation, and (3) help you keep the scope of your dissertation manageable given your resources. The Dissertation Game Plan not only explains the ins and outs of the dissertation, but also provides detailed worksheets in the appendix to organize, communicate, and make a plan that will allow take charge of your dissertation and power through the work of getting it done.
Completing a dissertation with empirical research is an enormous task, but a good plan, a little help, and a lot of work will get you to your goal of dissertation and PhD completion. Don't let anybody put you in the condescending category of "All Bud Dissertation." You are a doctoral candidate who is on their way to their PhD. You have already invested significant time and money toward your goal of becoming a PhD. Download The Dissertation Game Plan to make a plan, get into gear, finish the job and collect the PhD you richly deserve.
Click below to download:
The Dissertation Game Plan!
The Divide Between the Jargons - SPSS Output and APA Format...
After the formidable work of collecting, inputing, and finally analyzing the data for your dissertation in SPSS (or another statistics package), one last hurdle stands between you and completing your dissertation - writing your results in APA format. Unfortunately, the output from SPSS and many other statistics package is formatted with cryptic labels and statistics jargon that is not congruous with the final language you will have to write up your results in - English with notations in APA format.
The Bridge to APA - A Step by Step Guide to Writing Up Correlation Analysis
The disconnect between the idiosyncrasies of statistical output and APA format can be maddening, but I've created a guide that walks you through converting your SPSS bi-variate correlation analysis into written APA compliant language. Download the guide to decode the language of SPSS and unlock the key to APA formatted written results!
Download the guide below!
An anonymous academic once told one of my students that "A good dissertation is a finished dissertation." Though off-putting to an anxious PhD or Master candidate, the prof's comment speaks to the tenacity and heads up planning that must go into conceiving, executing, analyzing, and writing a dissertation. The more cognizant you are of the many constraints that must be fulfilled to complete a dissertation the better your chance of creating a good dissertation and indeed finishing your dissertation. In this post and the accompanying white paper "A Guide to Picking a Dissertation Topic," I outline three important factors and constraints that should go into any dissertation starting with your interests and ending with the literature that your research question must fit into.
The three factors discussed here are (1) Your own interests and passions, (2) the skills and interests of your university staff (especially committee chairs and members), and (3) the place of your research in the literature on your topic. Choosing a "good" topic starts from within exploring your interests and passion, but your research is not done in a vacuum. Once you've identified what is important and meaningful to you, you must find the place of your research among the community of your university and its staff (particularly your committee and chair), and determine the value of your research within the larger literature on your topic.
The Research Questions Within: The critical starting point to finding a good research topic is to explore and know your own interests and passions. I suggest that students do a self-evaluation of the topics that interest them, courses they've enjoyed, experience they've had in their field, and their key skills as an important input into their choice of topics. This self-knowledge will be a pillar of strength in the arduous road to completing a dissertation. If you care about your topic, it will give you strength along the way. If you don't, no one will. Great research springs from the passion and ideas of bright people like you, and I encourage you to first and foremost pursue those interests and passions. However, your passion is only a starting point, and to make your research meaningful (and finish your dissertation;) you will need to involve your academic community and find the niche of your research in the larger literature on the topic.
Aligning with Your University and Program's Community: An important constraint to consider when choosing your topic is the skills and interest of the staff in your university and the program you are enrolled in. I therefore also suggest an evaluation of the key players in your program's staff. Ideally, your topic of interest will fit into the research interests and skills of the professors in your program and especially your dissertation committee and committee chair. This is not just a matter of the sycophantic echoing of your chair and committee's interests. The advice and unique skills of your chair and committee should be a resource to you, and if your interests align with theirs, you will benefit from their experience and knowledge in the development and execution of your research.
Having said that, there is a certain "office politics" involved in getting the approval of your plans and work from your committee and chair. It is impossible to escape the fact that these professors have the power to pass you (or not), so it is in your best interest to form a good relationship with these mentors and colleagues, and to respect them and gain their respect. If you have the ability to choose a chair and your committee, it would paramount to choose people with whom you work well and share your interests and values. Your relationships with your university staff are a critical link to not only getting your dissertation approved, but to getting intelligent mentoring and feedback to make your work better and to get you through your dissertation.
Aligning with the Larger Research and Literature on Your Topic: The third pillar of finding a good research topic is how the research you propose fits into the literature on the topic. You should review the literature of your topic with a keen eye on your research questions and hypotheses because your review of the literature usually culminates explaining how your research fits into this literature and with a formal presentation of your research question and hypotheses. You should rely on the guidance of your committee and chair to set out a good literature review plan that does not loose sight of your research questions and hypotheses. One of the most common issues I see in dissertations are literature reviews that are disconnected from the research questions, hypotheses proposed. The development of research questions and hypotheses should be done in the context of writing your literature review which will culminate with a justification of your research and its contribution to the literature and a formal presentation of your research questions and hypotheses.
A research topic chosen from your interests, that fits the experience and interests of your university community (your committee and chair), and that has a strong niche in the literature on your topic will get you started with a strong basis to create a good dissertation and one that you will finish. You are invited to download my Guide to Picking A Dissertation Topic which outlines this process in detail including questions and worksheets to guide you.
Download my Guide to Picking A Dissertation Topic by clicking below: