Dealing With a Challenging Committee

Dissertation Motivation

Dealing with a challenging committee can be a difficult experience for many doctoral students, but it is a common part of the dissertation process. Satisfactorily addressing each committee member’s feedback can feel like walking a tightrope. There are several strategies that you can use to manage the situation and successfully navigate this experience. Here are some tips on how to deal with a challenging committee.

Preparation and Organization

Keep in mind that you are not the only student that your committee has been assigned to. Identify how many students your committee is working with and develop a consistent schedule in which you can communicate with them. Organize weekly meetings with your committee members so you are always on the same page. Screenshare with Zoom to review feedback together and record meetings so you can rewind, pause, and take notes

Templates and Examples

Before working on any content for your dissertation, locate your school’s dissertation template. A majority of schools provide a dissertation template that identifies the section headings and content that is required for each section. Some universities even provide a rubric or checklist for each section. In addition, ask your committee members for previously approved dissertations that they have worked on in the past. This will give you a baseline understanding of what will be acceptable for approval.

Maintain Professionalism

No matter how difficult the committee process can be, it is important to maintain your professionalism and remain calm and composed. Avoid becoming defensive or argumentative, and instead, respond to their questions and comments in a respectful and professional manner. Don’t rush your committee with reviews but if you feel it is taking a long time, reach out for a progress update. If you don’t agree with a comment or suggestion that they have provided, have a reference or citation to support your claim.

Seeking Support

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I’ve seen both extremes where some students refuse to ask any questions, while other students are over-reliant on their committee and ask too many questions. You want to find the sweet spot right in the middle. You don’t want to bombard your committee with questions that could potentially be answered independently. Demonstrating initiative can go a long way when it comes to committee reviews.

Additional Resources

Addressing Feedback – Getting Through Quickly and Efficiently

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