An ABD’s dilemmas with her writing underscore for me the problems dissertation writers have when they’re isolated from campus and from an advisor during the dissertation process.
As a dissertation coach, I don’t fix people’s writing, but I listen, and if a client sends me some text, I see what the writing looks like.
This morning a dissertation writer talked about several pages of a chapter. In these pages she writes, in part, the history of a movement.
She came to me because her advisor gives her no feedback. She had sent him some pages, and it’s obvious he didn’t read the work or, if he did, he decided he wouldn’t involve himself in her process. He says she’s doing great!
The introduction to the survey of literature is murky, repetitious, hard to follow. It goes on for page after page. She tries to write in what she thinks is the expected discourse. She hurries, compresses, meanders, and throws in rhetorical flourishes.
No one has told her that the convoluted language is confusing. Nobody has told her, in effect, to choose a traffic lane and stick with it.
In the second half, where she presents the background material, she says, “I don’t have any concepts in here.’ It seems to me that her writing becomes clearer in this second half of the group of pages, but she dismisses that writing as “baby-ish.” She is in a hurry to wrap up the telling of the history because it seems obvious to her.
When she talks aloud to me about her ideas for the dissertation, she sounds competent and clear, but she knows that she has problems when she writes. She is spinning her wheels.
I have faith in her. I know that she can turn this around, but she is looking at quite an investment of time.
I have to ask: Did her university prepare her for writing this dissertation?
What responsibility does her advisor have toward her?
What do you think?
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