Sep 16 2010
In one of my classes yesterday, the professor talked to us about picking a good dissertation topic, advisor, and just in general how to handle the dissertation process. In my education, I don’t think that I had ever had anyone sit down to discuss this with me. Some of the advice would’ve been helpful prior to my thesis issues. There are many good articles out there on picking your advisor and all, so rather than repeat those ideas, I’m going to contribute what I wish I would’ve known that I haven’t seen offered as much or at all. Most of these things are for the absolute worse case scenario; hopefully, your thesis or dissertation has smoother sailing.
- Save every single email and piece of correction you receive. This just helps keep track of what you’ve done; hopefully, you find the corrections decrease with time. Also, if things become grave, you have proof of who said what. For organization’s sake, I keep a separate folder in my inbox and have a drawer of my filing cabinet dedicated to paper corrections.
- Find a support person outside your advisor. Very late in the game, I began talking to other professors to seek advice and support. My thesis process was particularly difficult, even for a process that has its difficulties, and these outside folks helped me in so many ways. Even if they hadn’t directly helped me, they were supportive emotionally. Make sure the person understands the idea of confidential conversation, etc.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up early if things are awry. If your advisor is delaying your finish, treating you poorly, or anything else you think is unacceptable, talk to someone in authority. If you cannot talk to that authoritative person or are still unsure what to do, use your support person to advise you how to go ahead. If the first person you speak to isn’t effective, keep trying.
- Make sure that all expectations are clearly discussed early on. If your committee wants derivations fully worked out, references aplenty, make sure that’s well known before you hand in what you hope is your final draft. Going back and adding things is painful, particularly if you don’t save all those documents.