Pet Peeves of Dissertation Committee Members

Academic News & Updates

The top five pet peeves of dissertation committee members are:

1. An incomplete idea or an idea that is not thoroughly researched.

If an idea is incomplete or not thoroughly researched, the draft will be extremely short. You also will not have many references. If you find yourself with these clues, you need to look at your project variables. It is likely you have not explained all of your variables or tied them together in a way that explains the importance of this work to your audience.  This will not please your dissertation committee.

2. A proposal full of mistakes – spelling, grammar, and formatting errors.

If your course professors have told you that you consistently have spelling and grammar mistakes in your papers; believe them. Either work on your editing skills or seek assistance BEFORE giving your proposal to your dissertation committee. Many errors will make your drafts difficult to read.

3. A poor understanding of the elements of research, such as the difference between research questions and hypotheses, and appropriate statistical tests to use for the specified questions and hypotheses.

Again, if you have had trouble with these research specific elements, ask for help!  Part of becoming a professional is knowing when to ask for help and choosing the appropriate person to ask. Use this experience as a way to become more comfortable asking for help – and learn from the experience!

4. A student that is not willing to listen to suggestions from committee members.

If you are not going to listen to your dissertation committee’s suggestions, you are not going to make progress in this process. You will most likely not agree with all of your dissertation committee’s suggestions. However, there is no reason to argue over every point.  Choose your battles and only argue over those suggestions that do not make sense or would derail your project. In these cases, provide evidence from research to support your points as to why you do not want to make the changes suggested.

5. A student that expects the dissertation committee members to do the work.

Do not submit a draft to your committee that is half-done with some of the errors listed above and expect your committee to rewrite your research questions, choose your statistical tests, or proofread and edit your draft. When a student presents a poorly prepared draft, a committee member associates the poor planning with the student. Future drafts will be overshadowed by the poorly prepared first draft. It will become difficult for the committee member to quickly review your work.

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