Tailors and Dissertations

June 4th is Tailors Day. Ready-to-wear, off-the-rack clothes have become so commonplace that you can hardly find a tailor if you need one. But, make no mistake, a good tailor is exactly what’s required to get your dissertation done!…

Dissertation students often lament whenever they receive feedback from their committee members. Gone are the days of physically printed pages with blood-red ink smeared all over them. But, are 357 margin notes really any better?

And, the language that faculty use in their comments hurts, too:

Fix this.

Correct that.




Students are used to completing assignments and having them graded. That grade, in turn, tells them how well they did. That same binary sense of right and wrong still influences their thinking during the dissertation process, but it really no longer applies!

You see, your dissertation isn’t done when it’s “perfect.” It isn’t even done when it’s “right.” No, your dissertation is done when it’s approved.

Do you ever figure figure skating or diving? If you’re like me you watch for several day every four years when the Olympics is on.

Well, when those athletes compete, they don’t look to a clock to determine their results. They don’t study a photo finish to see who wins.

They look for the judges’ scores. And, rarely do two judges see things exactly the same way.

The same is true for your dissertation.

If you had dozens of people on your committee, chances are that no two of them would read and react to your paper exactly the same way. I’d expect them to agree at the 80-90% level. But, the remaining 10-20% would represent each reader’s history, experience, sensitivities, and biases.

In order to graduate, you have to make sure that your writing fits those particular needs for your specific committee members. So, even those your reviewers make use heavy-handed language like “fix this,” “correct that,” or simply “wrong,” the truth is more subtle.

Another reviewer might be fine with a particular passage that your chair flags. But, your chair decides whether you graduate. So, you have to tailor your dissertation to fit his requirements.

Those requirements aren’t right, and they aren’t wrong. They’re simply revision requests to which you must accede in order to move on.

So, don’t beat yourself up with you get feedback from your committee. Treat it just like a tailor treats the measurements he takes from his clients. This feedback is simply the information you need to make your dissertation fit your committee!

Are you having a difficult time deciding what to stitch and what to cut based on your committee’s feedback? Click here to schedule a quick, 15-minute chat with me to see if you’re a good candidate for our Fast Track Your Dissertation Coaching Program. If you are, then I’ll invite you to join the fastest group of dissertation students out there and help you to reach graduation a good year or two faster than you would on your own.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

Let's Talk About Your Dissertation
Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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