Committee and chair feedback is an important step in the dissertation process. However, this process is often overlooked when students are planning for timelines and addressing feedback can become overwhelming for a number of students. In this blog, we will discuss addressing feedback in a timely and efficient manner.
While this first point may seem self-explanatory, the first thing you should always do before starting the process of addressing comments is to thoroughly read through all the feedback given. As you read through each comment, take notes on how you might attempt to address the feedback or write down any questions that you may have about what you are expected to do. What is important here is that you make sure you thoroughly understand the feedback given before attempting to fix it. That being said, do not be afraid to ask your chair or committee members questions. Many students remark that they are hesitant to reach out to their chairperson for fear of looking dumb. However, it can be very easy to misinterpret a comment on a word document or email. If you have any questions, just reach your chair, they are there to help you. You cannot thoroughly answer something if you don’t understand it and a part of your chairs job is to guide you through the editing process. Once you feel as though you fully understand the content of the feedback, you can spend your time addressing each comment one by one. Make sure to thoroughly address each comment, as you do not want your chair or committee member to ask you to make the same changes multiple times.
Sometimes, even if you have asked your chair clarifying questions, you may have to push back on your mentor’s feedback. This can be incredibly nerve wracking but is sometimes very necessary. While it is not the case for every chairperson or committee member, but certain feedback may not always be helpful or appropriate for your study. For example, if you are running a qualitative study and a committee member asks for a quantitative analysis. Alternatively, sometimes the comments made just seem nitpicky, arbitrary, or not within the scope of your study. Make sure to keep an open and professional line of communication between you and your committee members. While pushing back on feedback can be necessary, it is important to do it in a respectful manner instead of getting defensive and possibly lashing out. Ultimately, barring any large and glaring issues, it is your dissertation; do not let the feedback push you into a position where you do not understand or feel uncomfortable defending.
Another roadblock you may run into during the editing process is incongruent feedback. Sometimes you’ll find that your chair and committee member, or you’re one of your committee members versus another committee member at odds regarding the changes that they think should be done. This is where you need to talk to your chair. Your chair is your advocate, they are your first and your last line of defense against the committee. Discuss with your chairperson which feedback you think is most helpful and appropriate for your study and your chair should then speak with the committee members from there. Alternatively, your chair may ask you to explain the reasoning to each committee member, but only do this if you are asked to as it can sometimes come off as disrespectful.
Another important tip for the feedback process is to make sure you are using all the resources available to you. Many school libraries have librarians/ research assistants to help you, including helping with writing, if your library has a writing center, or pointing you in the direction of appropriate databases. Additionally, editing services and services such as Statistics Solutions are paid to help with APA feedback as well as general committee feedback. Finally, your peers and cohort members are always a good resource for bouncing ideas off one another as well as editing help.
Finally, it is important to be timely with your feedback. It takes time to diligently address feedback as well as for a section of a paper or proposal to be reviewed. Before starting the feedback process, ask your mentor and chairperson about your deadline and how long they would need to provide a review. Overall, try to be mindful of your timeline so that you do not get stuck making major revisions with an unrealistic timeline.
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