Dear Dissertation Professor,

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

Dear Dissertation Advisor,

When you tell your student at the midnight hour, the witching hour, the proverbial last minute about a fundamental shift in the design or draft that “it’ll only take 20 minutes,” you know for a fact that what you just said to your student was a lie. You purposefully overwhelmed your student. Even though you might only need “20 minutes” to change one spot that affects a draft in a profound way and then copy and paste the key phrase everywhere, you need to remember that you are thinking about a manuscript you would write for publication totalling only 20 to 30 double-spaced pages, not a student’s dissertation proposal or full 5+ chapter final dissertation draft. You know full well that your student lacks your seasoned prowess for research report writing and desires for you to offer guidance and wisdom. Educate your student, empathize with them, and be reasonable.

Recently, I had a student come to me with this exact problem: The professor wanted a fundamental shift in the design of the study that included a complete change in the hypotheses and presentation of the results in a 180 page, 5-chapter dissertation and had the audacity to tell the student that making the adjustments was a 20-minute task. The student came to me for help while recognizing how in-depth the adjustments were going to be. I took on the editorial part of the task, noting that copy and paste from the change was most of what was needed, and it was not a 20-minute job!

I am a seasoned veteran of research writing, and I needed 1.5 hours to complete the editorial elements of the task; the student had spent over an hour in my office just conceiving of how to make the cognitive shifts in thinking. I literally felt like I was having a traumatic flashback episode to my own dissertation defense when a professor on my committee decided that my complete study required a different statistical design. I had done one type of statistical model, but he decided that my combination of variables would have been better presented with a different statistical design at the proverbial witching hour. He had the audacity to say that I only needed “a couple of hours” to complete the statistical procedure’s tasks and revise the entire Chapters 4 and 5 of the dissertation. The gasps had by the peanut gallery at my defense were audible!

In the end, I did perform some additional statistics but I spent 3 days working on the adjustments. I went to the professor’s office and showed him my additional 48 hours of new content and multi-chaptered edits.

Hey dissertators, know the following: You are being hazed. You are not crazy.

Oh, and professors remember, it is better to be Noble, Intellectual, Constructive, and Empathic. Be NICE! Notice that your idea of 20 minutes of work is the dissertator’s 48 hours of hell on earth.


Dr. C, the Irreverant Professor & Rogue Coach

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