After reading this fourth post in my 5-part series about communication with your dissertation committee, you’ll not only be able take their comments constructively instead of personally, but you’ll also be able to understand what their job entails when it comes to advising your dissertation process. Communicating with your dissertation committee on a regular basis is a huge component of your dissertation writing process, as I’ve posted in the past, but this post will be more about the unspoken communications that you must have with your committee.
This subject is tricky because it involves a lot of feelings and emotions, so many students don’t even want to talk about it; however, it will be good for you to learn how to take certain comments and see the point of view from your advisors.
Let go of perfectionism.
Take a look at Fabio Rojas’ article. Rojas writes about many things regarding communications with dissertation committees, but I’d like to point out two sections: “Hyper-criticality” and “Conflicting advice.” What many students tend to do when committee members send back feedback in the form of negative comments, the students get worried because they want their dissertation to be perfect on the first try. Guess what? That doesn’t, and can’t, happen to anyone! They have to send something back to you so that you can continue working and editing for your finished product.
Don't take it personally.
Don’t stress when they send you things to work on; this means they are helping you and being a good committee. It’s when they don’t send you anything back that you should begin to worry. Now, some professors may not sound constructive in their criticisms, but still try not to take this personally. The way in which they present their comments is usually based on their personalities, so evaluate the members of your committee who might unintentionally hurt your feelings and realize that they’re not being mean to you; they’re doing their job.
Committee members are people, too--and busy ones at that.
I also enjoyed reading this article by Tara Kuther. Kuther writes about putting your committee members’ shoes on, so to speak, and looking at your dissertation process from their point of view. Honestly, some students aren’t very understanding when their committee members don’t provide feedback or give comments in a timely manner set by the student. If you are a student who becomes impatient with your committee members, just remember the other work that they have. Think about how you have felt in classes before, when professors would assign papers or homework like nobody’s business, but you already had other tests and quizzes to study for from other professors.
The basic idea here is that you want to be aware that you are not your committee members’ number one priority. I know it’s shocking to hear, but it’s true. Think about the other projects they are working on and the people they are pleasing, and you might find yourself backing off and finding other things to work on. Committee members are busy people, so give them grace and remember their workload. At the same time, try not to take the comments from your committee too personally; they are there to help you and provide feedback so that you can do your best with your dissertation. If you are looking for more help regarding your dissertation and thesis work, look at PhDStudent’s webpage that includes many articles and resources for you.