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Author Topic: should I ask this of my dissertation committee?  (Read 56713 times)
polly_mer
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« Reply #60 on: April 28, 2012, 11:25:49 AM »

My defence is based on that "initial" submission, and any major glaring issues will be taken care of post defence. But again, it is expected that my supervisor have very thoroughly vetted the dissertation meaning that any glaring errors, typos, format issues would have been either addressed prior OR she wouldn't have signed off and moved me to submission.

In functioning places, yes, people are not allowed to schedule a defense unless it's likely to be successful.  In other places, that's not the case. 

We don't know what is true here since Karl has not told us.  We could hypothesize that one reason Karl is running up against the end of summer deadline to defend is not yet having a close-enough-to-defendable dissertation so no one will schedule a defense at this point.  We don't know any history of Karl's interactions with his graduate committee and what they might be thinking.  We just have Karl's word that he will be done and ready to defend late summer/early fall.
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infopri
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« Reply #61 on: April 28, 2012, 11:35:46 AM »

At my institution (also my alma mater), it's very possible that at least some of the committee members have not read the entire dissertation (and possibly not even seen many parts of it at all) before the defense version is distributed two weeks before the defense.  And even then, they often will not share comments until the actual defense.  In that regard, they act more like outside readers, even though they are full-fledged members of the committee.  That may explain why it is the norm at this school for there to be post-defense revisions, often significant ones.  In my 20-year association with the school, there has been exactly one--one--dissertation that did not need a single revision after the defense.  It didn't even have any typos.

That said, our premier professional association's annual dissertation award has gone to our graduates a very disproportionately high number of times, so the process does seem to produce superlative work, in the end.
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glowdart
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« Reply #62 on: April 28, 2012, 11:40:45 AM »

At my institution (also my alma mater), it's very possible that at least some of the committee members have not read the entire dissertation (and possibly not even seen many parts of it at all) before the defense version is distributed two weeks before the defense.  And even then, they often will not share comments until the actual defense.  In that regard, they act more like outside readers, even though they are full-fledged members of the committee.  That may explain why it is the norm at this school for there to be post-defense revisions, often significant ones.  In my 20-year association with the school, there has been exactly one--one--dissertation that did not need a single revision after the defense.  It didn't even have any typos.

This is how our process worked, too.  But, other departments on campus (in the same college) did it differently.
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southerntransplant
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« Reply #63 on: April 28, 2012, 11:51:00 AM »

But in this particular case, all of this is, I'm assuming, already done, since the OP already has the final comments and is doing revisions in advance of the defense:

I am done with my dissertation and well along with the revision process - almost done in fact before going to defense.


Maybe things work differently in the humanities, but I know that I've seen people make the revisions from comments in progress, submit a revised copy to the committee in the two-weeks-before-the-defense window, and have to do another round of revisions after the defense.  A student is seldom the best judge of where the dissertation actually stands, much the same way someone who apparently has never served on a committee or even paid attention while in grad school is not a good judge of reasonable scheduling procedure.

The candidate has to submit a proposal to the committee maybe a year or so in advance of the defense. The candidate also has to do a preliminary exam, during which the content of the research is explained and anticipated results outlined. The committee is then able to weigh in on the direction of the dissertation. We then get the initial submission from the student no later than two weeks before the defense. We make comments on the draft and bring it with us to the defense. Those comments, plus any comments made by the committee at the defense, go to the student for revision.

Underlying this process is the assumption that the chair has gone over the dissertation drafts in detail before we see it.
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infopri
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« Reply #64 on: April 28, 2012, 11:54:07 AM »

Underlying this process is the assumption that the chair has gone over the dissertation drafts in detail before we see it.

Yes, I should have made clear that this is true at my school, as well.
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janewales
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« Reply #65 on: April 28, 2012, 12:52:43 PM »


When Karl says he's "well along in the revision process," I understand him to mean that he completed a full draft of his dissertation, and received feedback on it, and is now processing that feedback. That could mean anything from minor tweaking to a major overhaul, though. One of my best students went through five "final," "complete" drafts before we were prepared to do the paperwork to request an external examiner; if s/he'd been in Karl's place in March, then there would be absolutely no way to have a defensible dissertation before the fall. I agree it's hard for us to know what's possible, without knowing whether Karl's committee would think he is in fact almost finished.
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infopri
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« Reply #66 on: April 28, 2012, 1:01:17 PM »

I agree it's hard for us to know what's possible, without knowing whether Karl's committee would think he is in fact almost finished.

Even if we knew that, we might not know what's possible.  One of the students who followed a few years behind me in the doctoral program got as far as the executive meeting a few minutes before the defense started--you know, where everyone waits in the hall while the committee decides who will ask questions in what order, etc.--only what this committee was discussing, it turns out, was that one or more of them thought that the student/dissertation wasn't ready for prime time yet.  They cancelled the defense on the spot.

I have to day, given the public humiliation involved, the student reacted with admirable grace, both in the moment and later that day, when he made a "statement" (via the program's listserv) to quell rumors and make sure everyone understood correctly what had happened.

Unfortunately, that was several years ago, and he still hasn't defended.  So you never really know, until you actually go into That Room.
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grasshopper
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« Reply #67 on: April 28, 2012, 2:03:25 PM »

One of the students who followed a few years behind me in the doctoral program got as far as the executive meeting a few minutes before the defense started--you know, where everyone waits in the hall while the committee decides who will ask questions in what order, etc.--only what this committee was discussing, it turns out, was that one or more of them thought that the student/dissertation wasn't ready for prime time yet.  They cancelled the defense on the spot.

That sounds like a huge fvckup, and not knowing what happened, I'm going to go ahead and put a crapload of blame on the supervisor, anyway.

Honestly. How does something like that even happen?


We don't know any history of Karl's interactions with his graduate committee and what they might be thinking.  We just have Karl's word that he will be done and ready to defend late summer/early fall.

Since there's no reason to suspect that Karlhungus is misrepresenting anything, I'm going to go the other way, and assume that he's a faithful narrator, and that the committee is absolutely fine going forward with defense, and that the only problem is scheduling.

I just don't see the point in inserting a bunch of hypothetical horror possibilities, given the lack of any such possibilities being even remotely mentioned by the OP.
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infopri
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« Reply #68 on: April 28, 2012, 2:49:08 PM »

One of the students who followed a few years behind me in the doctoral program got as far as the executive meeting a few minutes before the defense started--you know, where everyone waits in the hall while the committee decides who will ask questions in what order, etc.--only what this committee was discussing, it turns out, was that one or more of them thought that the student/dissertation wasn't ready for prime time yet.  They cancelled the defense on the spot.

That sounds like a huge fvckup, and not knowing what happened, I'm going to go ahead and put a crapload of blame on the supervisor, anyway.

Honestly. How does something like that even happen?

Agreed.  I never did learn the details behind the committee's decision, but to answer your question, I know of another FUBAR situation, and it was the student's fault, not the advisor's (IMHO).  The advisor warned the student that s/he wasn't ready and should not be scheduling the defense.  The advisor saw major problems that s/he felt should be dealt with before the defense--but the student had landed a job that required the degree in hand by a certain date.  The student felt that the only way to make the date was to go ahead and defend (s/he did have a completed draft; the problem was content, not completion) and then resolve the problems--along with any other revisions the committee wanted--in the post-defense revisions.

The advisor's view, basically, was this:  "It's your dissertation--you're the one who has to stand up there and defend it, not me--so the final decision is up to you.  But I'm your advisor, and I'm advising you--I'm urging you--I'm begging you to wait.  It's not ready, and you're going to run into trouble."  The student insisted on defending.

It was the most painful three hours I've ever witnessed.  The primary problem (among others): the student had used inappropriate statistical tests, invalidating the entire analysis, which meant that all of the conclusions had no foundation.  S/he had to re-do the entire statistical analysis, then completely rewrite Chapters 4 (findings) and 5 (discussion and conclusions)--and s/he had only six weeks to do it before the submission deadline for the necessary graduation date.  S/he actually did get it done in time (barely), but it was a harrowing experience for all concerned, and to this day (more than 15 years later), that story still serves as a cautionary tale to other doctoral students.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #69 on: April 28, 2012, 8:38:57 PM »

Since there's no reason to suspect that Karlhungus is misrepresenting anything, I'm going to go the other way, and assume that he's a faithful narrator, and that the committee is absolutely fine going forward with defense, and that the only problem is scheduling.

I just don't see the point in inserting a bunch of hypothetical horror possibilities, given the lack of any such possibilities being even remotely mentioned by the OP.

OK, try this: if Karl is so far along, why is he having to ask about the possibility instead of his committee chair suggesting, "Karl, you should be done by mid-July.  Schedule that puppy for early fall", so that Karl could respond with, "How about just before the semester starts so that I don't have to pay for a semester?"

I'm also mostly amusing myself while I wait for Karl to come back and tell us what happened since he was given the good advice of "yes, of course, ask" several days ago.

In that vein, I also know someone whose defense should have been canceled the morning of the defense because he didn't get his final draft to the committee until the day before the defense.  Apparently, the outside reader called up the chair the night before the defense and said, "Did you read this?  You shouldn't let him try to defend this."  The student had already accepted another position and was leaving the next week so he insisted on defending anyway.  He did not pass.
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grasshopper
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« Reply #70 on: April 29, 2012, 9:14:42 AM »

Since there's no reason to suspect that Karlhungus is misrepresenting anything, I'm going to go the other way, and assume that he's a faithful narrator, and that the committee is absolutely fine going forward with defense, and that the only problem is scheduling.

I just don't see the point in inserting a bunch of hypothetical horror possibilities, given the lack of any such possibilities being even remotely mentioned by the OP.

OK, try this: if Karl is so far along, why is he having to ask about the possibility instead of his committee chair suggesting, "Karl, you should be done by mid-July.  Schedule that puppy for early fall", so that Karl could respond with, "How about just before the semester starts so that I don't have to pay for a semester?"

Because Karl wrote in the OP that he has finished his dissertation, and that the only problem is timing:

I am done with my dissertation and well along with the revision process - almost done in fact before going to defense.  We are too late in the spring semester to defend, so my committee wants to push it to early next fall.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #71 on: April 29, 2012, 11:45:59 AM »

If the dissertation is done, then what are these revisions?  In my book, a done dissertation is not one that is still being revised.

I believe that Karl has a complete draft, but that's not the same as a done dissertation as anyone who has been on the reading end of those drafts knows.
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grasshopper
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« Reply #72 on: April 29, 2012, 12:27:28 PM »

If the dissertation is done, then what are these revisions?  In my book, a done dissertation is not one that is still being revised.

I think you mean in your experience which, as has been noted several times here and elsewhere, may or may not be the same as the experiences of others.

These things vary from institution to institution, and indeed, program to program. Some places require students to submit The Perfect Version before the defense. Others require students to submit a defendable version before defense, with the assumption that revisions - minor, major, whatever - will be done within a certain time frame following the defense.

Your experience is not universal. Words to live by.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #73 on: April 29, 2012, 12:47:15 PM »

That's nice, Grasshopper.  I remember some other words of wisdom: you don't know what you don't know until you've done it.

I would grant that with only formatting to remain, a dissertation is done enough.

However, explain how someone who will be working on these revisions for months is done.  Notice that Karl isn't trying to defend in June, but is trying to get something lined up for late summer.  To me that doesn't indicate done in any sense of the word that a faculty member would use, but does indicate done in the student sense of "well, it's not really that much and I'll get to it and nobody should be whining at me anyway".

This discussion is why many ABD's cannot be hired even though they are gosh darn done and will defend in X months, c'mon, hire me.  If the dissertation isn't done enough that a faculty member has allowed the defense to be scheduled (even if that defense date is six months from now), then the dissertation is not done.

Karl, how did the discussion go?  Are you defending this summer?
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« Reply #74 on: April 29, 2012, 12:57:07 PM »

I always get a chuckle when a student submits a draft that says "final version".  Oh, yeah?  It really is wishful thinking of most of the students whose work I've read.  I've gotten to the point where I tell them do NOT name your draft "final version" it just dares the committee to find something for you to revise.

I have not yet been in either a masters or doctoral defense where the student did not get revisions at the defense or emailed shortly after.  I warn my student to expect this. 

There is a huge difference between revision, line-editing and formatting.  Many grad students do not know this.
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