While working on your thesis or dissertation, you may occasionally find yourself out of regular communication with your director and/or committee members. Several factors can lead to such a situation. Examples: a committee member goes away on a sabbatical, someone receives a distant research fellowship, or you or others need to conduct field work away from campus for a while.
But even during phases of separation, you still work on a team. To borrow thoughts and phrasing from Robert Frost, you and your committee work together, whether together or apart. (Read the original thoughts and lines in Frost’s “The Tuft of Flowers” here.)
In previous posts, we’ve covered various aspects of forming and working with committees. For general thoughts on committee relations, see this post from September 2017. For details on different types of project directors and their working styles, see this one from April 2016. And to read about approaches to choosing a director, check out this entry from March 2016. In today’s post, we offer ideas on coordinating with committee members—whether nearby or far apart—during the middle and final stages of your project. We also add a few thoughts for those of you who may need to reconnect with one or more members after an extended period of separation.
In Progress: Staying in Touch
In the Thesis Office, we strongly recommend that thesis or dissertation writers regularly update committee members on their progress. In-person updates are nice, but, as noted above, not always possible. Consider how you might be able to adopt or adapt the following approaches to updating:
Office Visits: If you and a committee member haven’t seen each other in a while, such a meeting can be especially rewarding. Even a brief face-to-face chat can be meaningful and uplifting. If possible, arrange to stop by a day or so before or after you’ve completed an important chapter draft or other project milestone.
Classroom and/or Lab Visits: Similarly, catching up with a committee member while that person is engaged in teaching or research can be constructive. If possible, arrange to audit a class session or to observe lab activities that touch on interests or concerns you’re currently working on.
Group Email: A commonsense way to integrate progress reports into your email practices, but one worth reviewing here, is to include each committee member as a recipient when you send out a “major” email message. Examples include (1) any message with a revised chapter attached for review, (2) any message in which you respond to feedback on a chapter or chapters that all members have seen, and (3) any message in which you review or confirm procedures or scheduling matters that your director has asked you to follow.
Nearing Completion: Bringing Everyone Up to Speed
As your document grows and its parts come together, consider the following ways to communicate its holistic development to all members your committee.
Share a Folder Online: Uploading files to a cloud service is not just a matter of safe computing. Doing so can also make your large document easier to access and evaluate. Share a folder on OneDrive or Dropbox with your committee members. When the time comes, you can upload your combined file to this shared folder. (The combined file may be rather large for email, especially if it contains images and/or other graphics.) Your committee members can then conveniently open and experience your whole document in one piece.
Share a List of Author’s Notes: If you’re like me, as you make progress, you compile notes of various kinds concerning the text you’re making. Some notes emerge from additional reflections on past feedback from committee members. Others develop as the overall document starts to take shape. When you approach your project’s end, share a list of author's notes with all committee members, via group email or the online shared folder.
About that Near-Final Document: Over the past few weeks, a few student writers have contacted us to ask if their thesis or dissertation needs to have all front matter—including abstract, acknowledgments, and dedication—complete and properly formatted before their oral defense. In short: the Grad School has no rule on this. (Note: if your director wants these parts included, then of course you need them.) But, at minimum, your defense document should feature coherent page numbering throughout so that committee members can easily refer to parts of the text during the defense examination. Note that, as shown on the Results of Oral Defense form, your examination can result in one of two kinds of “Pass”: (1) a pass requiring no further revisions or corrections or (2) a pass requiring such changes. Regardless of the kind of pass received, the document will need to contain all needed parts and meet all Graduate School formatting requirements before it can receive final approval for graduation.
As always, if you have questions about formatting or submitting your final document, be sure to contact us here at the Thesis Office. Good luck...and happy committee coordinating!
Working Together Teamwork Puzzle Concept by Lumaxart: Flickr.
Robert Frost Stamp: Wikimedia Commons.