Posts Tagged ‘dissertation advisors’

Six degrees of separation: Artistic visualization.

Image via Wikipedia


“I’ve had very little, if any, support from my advisor or my committee,” and so began another coaching call this morning with the writer of a dissertation. 

Many dissertation coaching clients say that their advisors are hands-off, giving little or no substantive feedback, or not wanting to see a dissertation at all until it’s complete. 

Does this sound familiar?  Do you feel you’ve depleted your resources, and you need some content-specific help? 

What to do? Here are some ideas from some of my coaching colleagues and also from some of my clients. 

1.  You shouldn’t have to look outside your program for content-specific help.  If you have a coach, one of your coaching goals could be improving communication with your advisor (or someone else on your committee) who has the relevant background knowledge. Work with your coach to plan your strategy. 

2. If you can think of someone who might know someone who can get you closer to a source, you will eventually succeed.  Think about Stanley Milgram‘s Small World experiment (which inspired the Six Degrees of Separation book and movie.) 

3. Post a question on Linked-In or make up your own study group. 

4.  Engage a willing friend, colleague, or coach to read some of your text and ask you questions about what’s going on.  Tell your reader to be curious.  You want a naïve reader, not a critical expert. The right questions can help you move toward a breakthrough. 

5.  Take a class!  
As a client phrased it, “Make your own Woody Allen moment—here comes the director onto the stage.”  Figure out who could be your Woody Allen. Who is the person you most want to learn from? Then sign up for a class from that person, and write the paper for the class.  

If your project has stalled and your advisor offers minimal to no support, you need a strategy. Think Small World.  Or make your own Woody Allen moment.  

Above all, prepare for a breakthrough. 

Read Full Post »

The experiences of some of my clients with their dissertation advisors may be explained by research shared with me by Chris Peterson, author of Character Strengths and Virtue and A Primer in Positive Psychology.

According to Chris, the educational level of a person correlates negatively with some of the interpersonal strengths.

Social intelligence is not a top strength for many academics.

While many students have good relationships with their advisors and praise them for being caring, kind people, I often hear a different story from my clients.

One said that he thinks that people who make it through the doctoral program, get a job in academia, and then become advisors for doctoral students are a different breed from most other people.  He thinks it’s really hard for successful academics to understand the struggle that so many people have.

Another client said of his advisor, “He breezed through this process in record time.  He really truly struggles with anyone who doesn’t bang it out in record time.”

Such comments suggest that it is a challenge for many ABD’s to negotiate good relationships with their advisors. 

Strategies are needed. 

If you have any strategies that you would be interested in sharing, please write to me.   Feel free to contact me through my website www.nwcoaching.com, and of course, I will keep your identity confidential. 

At my website I also offer a free newsletter. Please sign up for it.  I’d love to hear what you think. 

Until next time,

Read Full Post »