H/T to Harman for referring to this blog post on a particularly bad (at least from this view) thesis advisor. I had it so easy and that might be why I sometimes don’t have much patience for those who claim particular problems with their advisors. (Of course, in this case it probably is the advisor, but in many cases it’s transference for one’s own lack of getting writing done.) I wrote up a proposal. My committee looked it over, made great suggestions, and then I went to work. I handed in some chapters, but was also working a ton teaching, so my work was getting done in real quick spurts. A year goes by, I can see the end point and I tell my advisor that I want to go on the market. He agrees–no need to put it off. He emails the rest of my committee, many of whom haven’t seen much of my work, and ask if it’s be okay to set a defense. They easily agree. The day of the defense they show up with pages of questions and notes, offering me the best feedback I’ve ever had, and then I graduate. Start to finish: 1 year, five months, 11 classes taught.
For those who are suffering, I suppose you’re thinking quite violent thoughts about me. Agreed. But this is how it should go: no one should take you on unless they can do this for you. The point of passing a proposal is that you think the research and the researcher is able to get this kind of work done. For some this obviously becomes the beginning of the process, when it should be near the end. (Here, we should look over at Ph.D.’s done in the social sciences, which are often much, much quicker, though there are other problems there, given more of a match-up between the advisor and the research to be done.)
This is an ideal case, but it shouldn’t be; people shouldn’t have to count on being lucky to have some of the nicest, least egocentric people in academia to get through a dissertation without PTSD.