To Finish Your Dissertation…

"The dissertation is the monument to the moment when the committee gave up" ~ Dr. D. Barry Lumsden

Dear Dissertant,

Do you really want to finish? Here are the first three or so things I can think of that you ought to be doing and are not.

  1. Having trouble getting replies from your chair/mentor/advisor? Send your email, and expect a reply in a timely fashion: 24 to 48 hours. Then surreptitiously resend the email and drop a text to check for email. Wait 24 hours. Then make a phone call, and leave a voice mail if necessary. Wait 24 hours, repeat text. Wait 12 hours, call, and keep doing the same thing in 12-hour intervals. They will get back to you when they realize that their cruise or other trip is going to have to be interrupted by their job.
  2. Don’t expect a professional, respectful RELATIONSHIP with your chair/mentor/advisor/etc. Sorry. They want to be sure you know they are in control of your fate. I recommend you playing by the rules of parliament and be NICE (noble, intellectual, compassionate, empathic). Show some respect, but ASSERT yourself–never don’t make contact, never shrink away, always persist. Note the important aspect of this process. They were hazed by their chairs and cannot help themselves 90% of the time, so they say things like “you finish when I tell you you are done and not one semester less.”
  3. If you attend a for-profit or online school, your chair is working on a contract, basically like a part-time adjunct. The school will have a full-time professor who will overthrow all control over your chair and your work because the full-timer outranks the chair on every dissertation. Consequently, you can add 1 year to your sentence of dissertation hell. And know that you the student will be blamed for the usurper by telling you things like, “but I thought you hired an editor” (really!?! that’s a cop-out). That behavior of delegating responsibility to the powerless is part of the power trip of the hazing ritual in this relationship and in this dissertation process.
  4. Don’t believe the professor cares, until the professor has approved your final draft of your all done dissertation and calls you doctor in return. Meanwhile, you do your best to be NICE while you PERSIST, always every 12-48 hours.


Dr. C, on behalf of 144 done doctors and counting.

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