Have you ignored your dissertation and your dissertation advisor for some time? Entertaining the idea of restarting the project and of contacting your advisor may cause more than a few fears to surface.
Are you afraid what the lapse in time may say about you? The truth is that it doesn’t say much of anything, except that writing a dissertation takes a long time, is very hard, and even the smartest and bravest people on occasion sabotage themselves and get in their own way.
Are you fearful that there will be a penalty for coming back and re-starting? You won’t know until you ask.
It is true that occasionally an advisor will be hands-off, saying that the graduate student should write a full draft before requesting another meeting. Such an attitude leaves me speechless, spitting, but speechless.
It is difficult to direct and supervise a dissertation, but directing, supervising, and advising are the responsibilities of an advisor. Most advisors take their responsibilities seriously, but you have to initiate contact and you have to ask for help.
Take these steps to re-group and re-start your dissertation:
• Contact your advisor and say that you are alive and ready to work. Avoid all opportunities to second-guess yourself. Do not put off contacting your advisor until you have produced more text.
• Arrange weekly phone calls between the two of you. Even if you don’t have anything to show your advisor today, once you have made contact, you will start writing.
• Plan for occasional visits to campus. Raise the bar on yourself by having specific dates for when you will have new or revised text and for when you will appear in the flesh.
• Requesting an extension and receiving an extension are not unusual. If you think you will need to ask your graduate school for an extension of the deadline for submitting a final document, look into that now.
If you have had limited contact with your advisor and if you feel that no one at your university knows where you are or what you are doing, get in touch with your advisor as soon as possible and keep in touch.
Take a big step forward on your dissertation and also on maintaining your self-respect.
What tips do you have for re-establishing contact with your dissertation advisor? I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,
P.S. Go to my website at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for my online Smart Tips for Writers. The September issue will go out soon.