Sometimes, it’s difficult to draw a line when it comes to dealing with your committee. What may seem appropriate to you may not translate well in a conversation with a member on your dissertation committee. The good news is that these issues don’t have to happen. Just read these tips to understand what is suitable in most situations with your committee members.
The following are tips that you should follow when learning what not to do when working with your dissertation committee throughout your dissertation writing process. In each tip, I give you the situation of what not to do, but then I provide you with steps you should take when dealing with certain issues involving your committee members.
1. Don’t confine yourself to those in your dissertation committee.
Take time to meet other faculty members and create relationships with them. You never know what may happen with members of your dissertation committee. If you and a committee member decide to dissolve your relationship, you will have other faculty members who know about your work, so they’ll be able to jump into your project pretty easily.
Do have nice balanced relationships.
These relationships include those with your committee members and other faculty members. You should have a closer relationship with your committee members, but you should also be knowledgeable about others just in case. Read this Q&A article from The Chronicle of Higher Education to learn more about how not to deal with difficult committee members.
2. Don’t be confrontational with your dissertation committee.
No matter how angry, upset, or aggravated your committee members make you, you’ll need to resist the urge to have a confrontational attitude when dealing with them. This should go without saying, but avoid yelling, cursing, and generally giving an air of resentment towards your committee members. You’ll also need to watch out for who you talk about and how much you say. Venting to colleagues who are in the program or even in graduate school as a whole is a dangerous feat because you never know what could come back around to your committee members.
Do provide a calm and peaceful attitude when talking with faculty.
Also, be careful with the way that you word your side of the conversation. Your committee members should be aware of the issue, but they should walk away appreciating that you approached them in a professional manner about it. Also, try to approach friends who aren’t in graduate school about the issues you’re having. A friend can give you another perspective and talk to you without bias. You might also want to find a dissertation coach to can listen to you and advise you on these types of situations. Here’s a page on Elite Research’s website that gives tips on dissertation coaching. Also, take a look at the website from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; this will help you further prepare for difficult meetings with your dissertation committee.
3. Don’t overestimate your boundaries with your committee members.
Avoid several things that may cause issues, such as calling a member of your committee on a personal number on the weekends, emailing them every day asking about how they’re doing on the chapter they’re reviewing, stepping on people’s toes (whether they’re on your committee or not) in order to advance faster. Don’t give anyone a reason to address negative or awkward behaviors while you’re still learning from them. Also, it’s important to remember that your committee is busy working on several things just as you are. Know that they have families, other projects, and a multitude of other things happening at once.
Do know the difference between hovering and checking in with your committee members.
Give them time to breathe and process your dissertation each step of the way. Also, be patient on the weekends. There should never be a reason to contact a faculty member on their weekends, especially on a personal phone number; they need breaks, just like you, so respect their space because you will need it in return. Show kindness to others instead of taking advantage of them by making sure that you succeed. For more of these types of tips, view our page that includes a few articles on maintaining good relationships with others in graduate school.