The Doctoral Student, the Advisor, the Advisory Committee, & the Academic Editor – Part 2


You are the author of your dissertation or thesis. If you do the preparation work well and focus your topic, if you know you are adding to the existing body of knowledge out there, you can weather a difficult advisor and advisory committee.

Some thoughts about a dysfunctional help:

Too much help

Let me just list two points about what the over-involved person might do:

* Be too demanding of you and not allow you your voice and thoughts. Everything you or anyone else says is wrong and must be done that person’s way.
* Be inflexible and demanding to the point that you are given incorrect writing help. Editors experience this especially with incorrect knowledge of formatting or house style.
* How about a few choice examples:

1. Never use passive voice: no such thing. The idea is to minimize the use of passive voice.
2. An APA favorite: write all numbers below 10 as words. Not true. APA has very clear rules about when numbers below 10 must be written as numbers and not words.
3. Frankly, the list is long. I’ve been known people who try to help make actual grammatical mistakes and insist they are correct. That is why tracking is important.

Interfering help is not helpful and is very burdensome. Doctoral and thesis work is already stressful and overbearing help can leave a student really confused and an editor really annoyed.

Too little help

This is frustrating especially if the person is meant to be helping. The worst is probably an “absent” advisor. A missing advisory committee member or committee members is less troubling, but can backfire in the long run because committee members are meant to be the sounding board before you put yourself out there for approval to your school and eventually to the world. But if an important team member is “missing,” it does at least leave you the option of finding outside, often paid-for help. Your most likely option is a good content editor at a fairly substantial fee. Problem is that if an editor is your main source of help, you have no barometer of what your school might accept. For example, there is literally nothing worse than to have poured your heart into a proposal only to have the proposal thrown back with little guidance.

Having said all that, two thoughts:

1. Try not to be too swayed by anyone. If you chose you your topic well and focus your research, you will be on track. If you self-edit, you will simply need a good copy edit to ensure consistency.
2. Learn to navigate the academic waters, the academic egos, and which advise to follow.

And of course, you should be proofreading your work yourself before passing it on to an impartial laser-eyed academic editor. Learn how to self-edit.

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