You and Your Doctoral or Thesis Writing Team: Part 4

So, you are the author of your dissertation or thesis. If you do the preparation work well and focus your topic, if you know you are adding to the existing body of knowledge out there, you can weather a difficult advisor and advisory committee.

A dysfunctional  advisory team

Be clear that there are two extremes with your advisory team, neither of them easy. This could apply to any one person on the team or a number of people.

Too much help

To start with, an over-helpful team member. Here are  two points about what the over-involved person might do:

  1. Be too demanding of you and not allow you your voice and thoughts. Everything you or anyone else says is wrong and must be done that person’s way.
  2. Be inflexible and demanding to the point that you are given incorrect writing help. Editors experience this especially with incorrect knowledge of formatting or house style. How about a few choice examples:
  • Never use passive voice: no such thing. The idea is to minimize the use of passive voice.
  • An APA favorite: write all numbers below 10 as words. Not true. APA has very clear rules about when numbers below 10 must be written as numbers and not words.
  • Frankly, the list is long. I’ve been known people who try to help make actual grammatical mistakes and insist they are correct. That is why tracking is important.

Interfering help is not helpful and is very burdensome. Doctoral and thesis work is already stressful and overbearing help can leave a student really confused or at a loss about how to handle such a person. When an academic editor has to navigate such a person, it usually means diluting the edit slightly. There are often academic hoops to jump and this may be one that needs jumping to keep the peace.

Next up, what too little help means.