Thought Clearing

Dave Harris, Ph.D. Editor & Coach.


Finishing a doctoral dissertation or master’s thesis is not easy; if it were, nobody would know what ‘abd’ stands for. A dissertation coach can help you get on the right track and get to the finish line.

In many ways a dissertation coach should play a role similar to that of the faculty advisors on the committee: the dissertation coach can provide regular and timely feedback on the work in progress, constructive criticism on how to improve it, and help focusing on those areas where work might be most fruitful.

In other ways the dissertation coach offers much that faculty cannot:

  • First of all, your relationship with a dissertation coach is predicated on the notion that the dissertation coach is there to serve you; this means that, unlike faculty, your dissertation coach should always be able to give you the amount of attention you need.
  • Second, the coach is there to help you produce the best work possible, at least in part by helping find mistakes before they go to the faculty; this means that you’re consistently delivering to your faculty work of higher quality.
  • Third, the coach provides an outside perspective; this is particularly useful if you’re having difficulty dealing with any of your faculty.
  • Fourth, the coach can help keep a schedule and help adjust schedules to the new problems that crop up.
  • Fifth, the coach can focus on you, rather than the dissertation; this perspective helps keep you on a more even keel: the coach can suggest times to take a rest and times to work harder.
  • Finally, a dissertation coach can help you figure out the best way to deal with your faculty members; even if they’re all helpful, getting them to match your schedule and give appropriate feedback on time can be difficult.

Depending on your needs and desires, the relationship can be structured around meetings (on the phone or in person in Portland, Oregon), or it can be structured around a scheduled exchange of work and an email dialogue, or it can be structured around a review of work as it appears (this will work well for some, but a schedule is better for most).

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Dave has been an invaluable source of support throughout the critical last 2 years of writing my dissertation. I contacted Dave during a period when I was taking some time out from my PhD programme and was seriously thinking about quitting after many repeated failures of starting my dissertation that had severely diminished my confidence. I decided to give the PhD one final chance and was looking for additional support from someone who could help me resolve the specific difficulties I faced in engaging with my work with so little confidence, someone who could help me develop the right kind of attitude and the necessary work patterns to complete the PhD despite the deep-seated frustration and exhaustion I felt at the time. I spoke to several different dissertation coaches and explained my difficulties. When I talked to Dave, I immediately felt there was the right kind of rapport. Dave listened carefully, he responded calmly, provided the right emotional ‘frame’ to engage with my difficulties and offered very insightful, concrete suggestions on how to approach the project in a more rewarding way and to significantly improve my work routines and writing habits. In the months that followed Dave’s advice was essential to shifting various unhelpful patterns, organizing my writing more effectively, and significantly increasing my overall productivity. Dave always offered multiple very thoughtful and clear suggestions on how to deal with a specific difficulty. Moreover, I could always feel that Dave genuinely cares about me and my work. Without Dave’s ongoing warm and insightful support I would not have been able to finally bring this project to completion. Thank you so much, Dave – it has been a wonderful experience to work with you!
Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Manchester -- Ph.D., Philosophy, University of Manchester



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