Dissertation Made Easy –28– A Lesson In Humility

What could be more infuriating than spending days and immeasurable energy on a document only to have it returned with barely a comment, something vague or just shut down as not good enough? As far as you know you are pretty smart- After all you a doctoral student- Doing something only 1-2% of the population will even get to do. Don’t they know who you are? You are the ____ (use your own expletives or head pumping descriptions)! How could they do this to you?

Therein lays the real issue. No one is doing this to you. It is not about you. As personal as it may feel because of how much of yourself you are putting in and how much of your life you are trading in for this doctorate, it’s not personal. The comments and responses to your submissions are simply that- the comments and responses to your submission. If they are upsetting at first, put everything away and return when you have calmed yourself and allow cooler heads to prevail. Here are a few things you need to remember

  • While you are the author- the dissertation or any other document you submit is going to be based on your standard. The only standards that matter are those of the people who approve it.
  • Faculty can and generally do respond in their own way. Some may blanket your paper with red ink while others send you a detailed email of their assessment. Still some may just provide a few notes. Get over your preference and get working on understanding how the people you are working with operate.
  • There is room for value in every communication from your committee. When you get a response to a document take time to cool off, and then get started with figuring out what is being asked of you. When you have questions or need clarification don’t hesitate to ask. It’s more annoying and aggravating to both you and your committee for you to keep submitting documents that don’t meet what is being asked than to have you ask for clarification so you can get it done right.

The point is, you have options- you can fight every step of the way to be right and get things to go the way you think they should or you can make the adjustments and do the work necessary to be Dr. This may mean that you have to put your ego and certain preconceptions aside to ensure that you produce your best dissertation and complete your degree.

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