Dissertation Coaching and Editing
ACTUAL QUESTIONS FROM CLIENTS FOR DR. WALDEN
Q. My English is poor. Can we communicate in another language?
A. Absolutely! I can have a colleague call and speak to you in French, Hindi, or Spanish among other languages. Just tell me what language you wish to speak, and I will make arrangements.
Q. Why don't you list your office hours?
A. Usually, I work seven days a week. I have my phones on from approximately 4 pm to 9 pm ET (Atlanta, Georgia, USA). I work this schedule to accommodate clients from all over the world and to reserve the right to take off time when my grandchildren visit, which is about once a month, three or four days each time. I usually work on Sunday (and Friday and Saturday nights). I do not work on major holidays. I have found that doctoral candidates usually work late at night and on weekends; therefore, I try to do the same. If you tell me when you need to talk, I can arrange it. (However, I reserve the right to charge extra for weekend and holiday work and rush work.)
Please note, I do not use call waiting, so if you do not reach me on the first try, just call back. Do not leave a voice message. If you must leave a message, please send an email with your phone number and convenient times when I can call you.
Q. How do you provide feedback when you edit?
This is done in one of two ways: tracked changes in Word or on a separate document with corresponding, numbered comments. For sophisticated writers, tracked changes are usually best. For novice writers, tracked changes can be confusing. Regardless of the method, I will call the client and discuss changes before completing the final edit.
Q: Am I locked into a long-term commitment if I hire you?
A: No. Coaching is on a monthly basis. If I feel that a client is not benefiting from my services or is unrealistic, I may terminate services. If a client carries an unpaid balance longer than 30 days, I may terminate services.
Q: How are dissertation consulting clients charged?
A: Clients may either pay by the month or buy a pre-pay a block of consulting time in increments of hours. They may use this time in any manner they so choose—phone consultation, reviewing their dissertation, assisting with mentor feedback, etc. When clients use up all their pre-paid time, they are expected to purchase another block of time. My office manager, Bill King, keeps a log of hours spent. I charge an hourly rate with a set fee for normal business hours and charge additional fees for weekends, holidays, and rush orders. Mr. King does all invoicing.
Q: How do you charge for other services?
A: For clients who are not seeking consulting services, prices are discussed before any work is completed. PowerPoint fees are charged by the slide (minimum of $100 for a completed PPT).
Q. What is the difference between a proposal, prospectus, and dissertation?
A. Generally speaking, the dissertation prospectus is a brief document (20-30 pages) that provides preliminary information about your dissertation research. Dissertation proposal and prospectus are used interchangeably with some universities. Some universities call the first three chapters the proposal. Your paper cannot be called a dissertation until permission has been granted to collect data, and these data have been collected. A dissertation consists of all five chapters and includes data results. To further confuse, some universities call the prospectus a concept paper and not all universities have five chapters..
Q. What do you contract out to other professionals?
A. I contract out all advanced quantitative statistics, NVivo requests, resumes, newsletters, blogs, and technical presentations, transcriptions, and grant writing help. In addition, I only edit for my established clients and contract all other editing out to Toni Williams. However, I always allow clients to decide if they want to work with another professional. If I say I am doing the work, then I personally do all the work. I read every dissertation, prospectus, assignment, or thesis sent to me. I do not glance over them and pretend to read them. I also re-read every page each time an assignment is sent back for additions or revisions. I personally do research for clients when asked.
Q: What do you not help with?
A. I do not write or revise dissertations for clients; this would be unethical. I am not responsible for finding your university specific template or formatting information. Remember, APA 6th edition does not give specifics for dissertations; therefore, each university has its own unique way of formatting the dissertation. This is the client’s responsibility. Although I will help, I do not complete IRB forms for clients. I reserve the right to reject any submission that is so poorly written it cannot be ethically edited.
Q: Is there any kind of money-back guarantee?
A: No. Coaching is a professional service; there are no refunds given. I provide a free, 30 minute consultation to prospective clients to help them decide if my services are right for them. Therefore, clients may not receive a refund for services rendered after the free consultation. Clients may elect not to continue with my services at any time.
Q: Do you require a change matrix?
A: No. However, I strongly recommend that each client keep a change matrix or at least a log of all mentor and committee comments and recommendations. I have found that the more organized the doctoral learner, the smoother the doctoral journey.
Q. What is this 85% thing on references?
A. Most universities require 85% of all references be within five years from the date you complete your degree. For example, if you plan to complete your doctoral degree in 2019, 85% of your references should be dated between 2014 and 2019. Keep this in mind as you conduct your research. Some universities require 95% of all references be peer-reviewed. Be certain and clarify this with your chair or mentor early in the process.
Q. Is there a page number or word requirement for each chapter in a dissertation?
A. This is a university and a major specific requirement. Be certain to check with your chair or mentor and read your university's doctoral manual early in your process. As a general rule, expect to have at least 100 pages and 100 references in your dissertation. Check your university's library and read several recent dissertations. Use these dissertations as a guide; however, use them only as a guide. Your chair or mentor is always your best resource in these matters.
Q. Do you check client's papers for plagiarism?
A. I run periodic checks; however, my software is not as sophisticated as the software universities use. I use Grammarly.com, but do not depend upon me or my software to catch all your plagiarism. Please know, if I notice excessive plagiarism, I reserve the right to terminate a relationship with a client.
Q. Is there an acceptable percentage of matching material that universities will accept?
A. No. The rumor I have heard is anything less than 10% is acceptable. Please understand, this is not acceptable. A Turnitin report at 10% can result in an ethics violation and end your doctoral journey. You must cite all "borrowed" information. If in doubt, cite it. Three words in a row are considered plagiarism. Plagiarism includes charts, graphs, figures, and photographs. Write the author and ask for permission to use such. Until you receive permission, source as "permission pending." If permission is not granted, remove them. Do not change them slightly and try to pass them off as your own. If in doubt, leave them out of your dissertation.
Q. How long do you think it takes to write a dissertation?
A. Several factors cause the time to vary widely. Some universities have faster turnaround times in Quality Review and IRB than do other universities. Some chairs/mentors and committee members are speedier than are others. Some chairs/mentors are more demanding than are others. The dean or the formal editor can hold up the process.
Writing the dissertation is not what is so time consuming; in my opinion, waiting on or satisfying the demands of others is what is so time consuming. If all things fall in place and no unexpected challenges occur, I would venture an approximation of nine months to a year to write and move a dissertation through the process. With this said, however, 15 to 18 months is not an uncommon time commitment. Of course, stopping or taking a break will stretch out the time. Not following directions to the point of obsession will lengthen the time. Not understanding the dissertation must be perfect and ensuring this perfection will greatly lengthen the time. Not keeping track of references will lengthen the time. Many variables exist that make this a difficult question to answer.
Q. How long does each step of the process take and can it be hurried?
A. My advice is to submit a product as close to perfect as possible at the start of each dissertation class. Most classes are eight weeks in duration. If you consider a one to two-week turn around for every correction that must be made, just add up the weeks: Two to three revisions by your chair/mentor equals four to six weeks assuming you make the corrections expeditiously. Both committee members typically need to review your work after your chair/mentor allows you to submit to them. Assuming one to two revisions from committee, adds another two to four weeks. Submission to Quality Review (either for your proposal or for your dissertation) can take two weeks to a month. IRB can easily take a couple of weeks to a month or two. The pilot study and collecting data add another month to six weeks. Analyzing data and writing up the analysis can take two weeks to a month. The dean and formal editor can add another month or two to your journey. Trying to schedule your oral defense can take upwards of a month. Now, just add up the weeks/months. However, please notice, in this breakdown, I have not mentioned the time you will need actually to write, conduct research, or edit your dissertation.
My advice is to keep a log of all changes asked by your chair/mentor and committee members and make 100% certain that you adhere to all their recommendations. Do not submit a hastily prepared draft. Take your time and submit perfection each time. FOLLOW YOUR RUBRICS AND/OR CHECKLIST! Do not sit idle when your paper is with a committee or with your chair/mentor. Keep moving, keep polishing, keep preparing for the next step. Do not waste a minute.
Q. What do you believe are the biggest reasons doctoral candidates stay ABDs and not become PhDs? What advice would give to help me not make those mistakes?
A. More than any other reason, I definitely believe the biggest downfall is not following directions and not staying committed. These issues will keep a candidate from his or her goal. If a candidate will simply follow all (every tiny) direction given orally, in print (read the manuals), or in residency; he or she will finish baring any unforeseen circumstances. The second reason for non-completion is laziness or disorganization, whichever word you prefer. You must stay the course and keep the dissertation foremost in your thoughts and actions to finish. Partying and socializing must take a back seat. Set a goal of 2 hours each day or 14 hours (minimum) each weekend and stick to it-regardless!
Next, I would say pride stops many from completion. You are going to get beat up, humiliated, and embarrassed-- stay the course. Consider this a hazing and remember the prize. Many of you were hazed before allowed into a fraternity or sorority. Well, that hazing was peanuts compared to the hazing you will endure in the dissertation process. If you submit a perfectly written paper with absolutely no errors the first few times, your chair/mentor will still make you change things, revise, reword, redo. This is simply part of the process--accept this, hold you head up, and say, "Thank you for the beating. I will back this time tomorrow for another beating."
The next major issue I see is not keeping track of things. I cannot tell you the mess I often see when I cross check references. Keep track of every article or dissertation you use--right click-ctrl+S to your desktop. Keep track of every chair/mentor comment, every committee comment, every involved professor's comment given regarding your dissertation. If nothing else, you can say (respectfully), "Sir, you told me to use correlation on such and such a date. Please explain why you want me to use multiple regression now." (or something similar)
I would have to say a poorly selected or hastily accepted chair or mentor is another reason for failure. Do not ask a friend to be your mentor nor allow the university to assign a novice mentor to you dissertation. Select your mentor as carefully as you would select a spouse. Once you have a mentor, do research on him or her. Read every dissertation he or she has signed off on. Then stay with that person. Fight the system if they try to make you switch mentors. If you have a tough, professional, knowledgeable, seasoned mentor, you will go twice as far, twice as fast. Respect your mentor--never, ever submit less than your best if you want respect. In addition, your mentor is always right--regardless of what I or any other dissertation coach says. Finally, respect your chair or mentor. Always call him or her Doctor.
Learn APA! How in the world can you expect to write a 100 page or greater dissertation without knowing at a minimum the basics of APA (or MLA, Harvard, etc.)? Keep the manual with you and read it every spare minute you have. Do not use software to format your references. You might not be able to use software in residency. Save yourself some embarrassment--memorize the basics of APA.
Finally, expect and plan for expenses other than tuition and books. No one person can know everything there is to know about a dissertation--especially not a first-time dissertation author. Save money or set money aside for experts. Have a statistician check your chapter one before you get too deep in the process. If you are not skilled at writing and do not know APA like the back of your hand, hire an editor before submitting for IRB or Quality Review; of course, do the same before you submit to the dean. Purchase a year's worth of service with Grammarly.com. Run every page you write through this software even if you have an editor. Grammarly is not a substitute for an editor; it is just another way to help you finish faster. Hire a dissertation coach or seasoned PhD to read your work several times during the process. You will need to hire a transcriptionist and possibly someone to code your qualitative work unless you are a skilled typist and know the software. Hire a statistician for your quantitative work even if you are good with stats--have him or her double check your work. Do not be penny wise and pound foolish. A few expert opinions along the way will save you at least one quarter and possibly a couple of years. What does one-quarter cost? approximately $3000-$6000. Plan on spending this amount on experts. No, I am not saying hire, me, I am saying hire experts with a proven track record.
Q. I tried to count all your degrees. Do you regret spending so much of you life in school?
A. I do not regret one course, one degree, or one penny I spent on learning. I would love to go back for another degree. I just cannot figure out when. In life, about the only thing that cannot be taken away from you is your education.
Q. Do you do your own billing?
A. No. After the initial agreement has been made, all my logged hours and client payments are routinely sent to a financial/office manager. I depend upon a professional to ensure that finances are removed from my relations with a client.
Q. How do you get so much done and how do you manage to stay so happy?
A. Several clients have asked me how I get so much done. Well, I will try to explain. First, I do not allow any negativity in my life. Because I am first-generation college student (like many of you), this has caused some problems with some family members, so I had to walk away from them. In addition, I walk away from negative clients, neighbors, and businesses. I burn sage and lavender in my home to ensure harmony in my home. I wear chakras. It is crucial to stay positive and happy. Depression, sadness, and bad thoughts can destroy you. I recommend you remove anything or anyone in your life who brings you down. Take care of your soul and your body. Respect yourself. Stand tall; be proud of yourself. You have accomplished much. Take bubble baths and eat right. Your body must last you a long time (I should know).
Second, I focus on the good things I have and never think about my problems. Yes, I have severe arthritis, but everyone has something. I could have had schizophrenia. See, it could be worse. I have had severe arthritis since I was a toddler. Several doctors have told me I would not live a year. Well, they are dead and I am still here, so I am doing something right.
Prioritize. What is really important to you? My immediate family, my furry babies, education in general, world peace, my former clients, and your dissertations are important to me, so that is what where I spend my time. I do nothing I do not want to do. I live in a condo complex with 1000 units full of people my age. They have something going on every night, but I rarely participate. I have made my choices. I have had two cars in 35 years. You must prioritize. Think about what is really important to you and make that your life mission; I have and I have no regrets. I have student loan debts up to my earlobes, but I really do not care. I am proud of my eight degrees, my family, my advocacies, and you.
Next, I surround myself with things I love: my favorite scents, colors, animals, pictures, music, linens, television programs, books, friends, foods, etc. It is important for your soul to look around you and see things, smell thing, touch things, and cuddle things that make you happy. If you are happy and at peace, you will get more done.
Of course, I multi-task. I never waste a minute. If I am in one room, I think about what is in that room that I might need in another room. I listen to audible books while I work on client’s dissertations. Next, I keep all upcoming appointments and tasks on a calendar on my cell phone. I keep lists on my cell phone. I use the “Sticky Notes” on my computer to keep notes. (By the way, this helps me keep my promises. Always keep your promises. My daddy taught me that a man (That is what he said) was only as good as his word.)
Finally, and possibly most importantly, I only turn my phones on and check Facebook and my emails during certain hours of the day. These interruptions can literally destroy your schedule. If my phone if off, I do not think about it. It will take people a little while to get used to this, but they can be trained. The question is, can you?
We all have gifts. Recognize yours, but also recognize your weaknesses. I suggest your make a list of both. I was born happy and smart (and I also need very little sleep and have a great memory); however, I was also born with a disease. So, I use my happiness to overcome my disease, and I use my smarts to earn a living. As long as I have my mind and my fingers (to type), I will be just fine. Think about what you have and use those strengths to overcome your weaknesses. Do not allow negativity to ruin your life. Take care of your soul and it will take care of you.
If you have a question, do not hesitate to ask. I will do my best to give you a thorough answer.
Dr. Lyn Walden