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What are your experiences with the Dissertation and Oral Defense? I have completed three MS degrees and Theses but the Dissertation process is very labor intensive with vagueness and confusions during the process. The MS Theses process was more collaborative and student friendly than the Doctoral Dissertation process. I hate to be critical about this process but to some extent it is a humbling or negative experience and there seems to be some limits of the process that almost parallels verbal abuse or even verbal bullying by committee members and/or faculty. One of my committee members spend a good thirty minutes during a review of verbiage of a specific use of a word I used. At one point I was told my literature review was too long to the point of not having a narrow focus. I shortened my literature review, so at another meeting I was informed that the literature review needs to be more broadly based.

The mental gymnastics or "Mind Rape" that happens during this process...Is it really necessary? I've worked on this for some two-three years and my proposal is officially approved but now I have a new faculty member engaged in the process who believes I should look at a different research topic and he wants me to change my title and develop a different survey with different questions.

Has anybody given up at this point in time....you almost need to have an attorney representing you and a Judge presiding during these meetings with Dissertation Committee members. Does being a Dissertation Committee member allow these individuals too much power so they feel it is their right to be rude and obnoxious?
 

erg923

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What are your experiences with the Dissertation and Oral Defense? I have completed three MS degrees and Theses but the Dissertation process is very labor intensive with vagueness and confusions during the process. The MS Theses process was more collaborative and student friendly than the Doctoral Dissertation process. I hate to be critical about this process but to some extent it is a humbling or negative experience and there seems to be some limits of the process that almost parallels verbal abuse or even verbal bullying by committee members and/or faculty. One of my committee members spend a good thirty minutes during a review of verbiage of a specific use of a word I used. At one point I was told my literature review was too long to the point of not having a narrow focus. I shortened my literature review, so at another meeting I was informed that the literature review needs to be more broadly based.

The mental gymnastics or "Mind Rape" that happens during this process...Is it really necessary? I've worked on this for some two-three years and my proposal is officially approved but now I have a new faculty member engaged in the process who believes I should look at a different research topic and he wants me to change my title and develop a different survey with different questions.

Has anybody given up at this point in time....you almost need to have an attorney representing you and a Judge presiding during these meetings with Dissertation Committee members. Does being a Dissertation Committee member allow these individuals too much power so they feel it is their right to be rude and obnoxious?
Your school's dissertation process sounds much more disorganized than mine was. I would think this has alot to do with some of the back and forth that has gone on.

I never felt like anyone was "mind raping" me. Of the 4 members, one was my lab mentor and one had been a research practicum supervisor, so we all knew each other well. So, either your faculty are psychopaths or you're way too defensive about the process. Look, the process should be scientifically critical (which can often translate to being required to redo some things, cut some things out, or just some general pain in the ass stuff) but always, always respectful. I just had final defense and had a great time hashing it out with my "outside reader."
 
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Psychadelic2012

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This must be different for everyone. I assume you went to a different school/program for your various degrees? I don't think the difference is masters vs. doctorate, or even one field vs. another.

Regarding the "mind rape," I'm getting that now in my clinical work and it's making me bat sh** crazy. Sometimes I think I'm on the edge of a psychotic break, seriously. But I have a completely manipulative, needy, socially inept loony bin for a supervisor. My point is, I keep telling myself that it's not the work, it's the people involved that make it or break it.

Edit: I just want to add that I think the constant changes are part of the process for anyone. The "I think you should change X to Y," resulting in the student changing X to Y, followed by, "No! Don't do Y, it needs to be X," even multiple times, seems very common.
 

Pragma

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What are your experiences with the Dissertation and Oral Defense? I have completed three MS degrees and Theses but the Dissertation process is very labor intensive with vagueness and confusions during the process. The MS Theses process was more collaborative and student friendly than the Doctoral Dissertation process. I hate to be critical about this process but to some extent it is a humbling or negative experience and there seems to be some limits of the process that almost parallels verbal abuse or even verbal bullying by committee members and/or faculty. One of my committee members spend a good thirty minutes during a review of verbiage of a specific use of a word I used. At one point I was told my literature review was too long to the point of not having a narrow focus. I shortened my literature review, so at another meeting I was informed that the literature review needs to be more broadly based.

The mental gymnastics or "Mind Rape" that happens during this process...Is it really necessary? I've worked on this for some two-three years and my proposal is officially approved but now I have a new faculty member engaged in the process who believes I should look at a different research topic and he wants me to change my title and develop a different survey with different questions.

Has anybody given up at this point in time....you almost need to have an attorney representing you and a Judge presiding during these meetings with Dissertation Committee members. Does being a Dissertation Committee member allow these individuals too much power so they feel it is their right to be rude and obnoxious?
I am not really certain how this process works in professional psychology schools, but I have heard it is quite different from dissertation defenses in Boulder-model programs. My experience in a PhD program was a positive one. It took over a year to complete the entire project (fast compared to a lot of people I know...some people spread it out over multiple years), but the proposal defense and the final defense itself were quite cordial. I think that the several committee members understand how much work goes into conducting original research, but want to put you through your paces appropriately and challenge you. They assume that you are operating at the highest level of academic rigor, and will hold your performance to that standard.

I know some have referred to it as "hazing" before, but really they just want to be sure that you know your stuff. It is a rite of passage. Sometimes you have to do some revisions, and if you can't answer questions adequately, you may have to do the defense over and make some changes. In reality though, you spend so long creating and implementing the study that you know it inside and out compared to the committee. Most people I know feel it goes well.
 
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AcronymAllergy

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I am not really certain how this process works in professional psychology schools, but I have heard it is quite different from dissertation defenses in Boulder-model programs. My experience in a PhD program was a positive one. It took over a year to complete the entire project (fast compared to a lot of people I know...some people spread it out over multiple years), but the proposal defense and the final defense itself were quite cordial. I think that the several committee members understand how much work goes into conducting original research, but want to put you through your paces appropriately and challenge you. They assume that you are operating at the highest level of academic rigor, and will hold your performance to that standard.

I know some have referred to it as "hazing" before, but really they just want to be sure that you know your stuff. It is a rite of passage. Sometimes you have to do some revisions, and if you can't answer questions adequately, you may have to do the defense over and make some changes. In reality though, you spend so long creating and implementing the study that you know it inside and out compared to the committee. Most people I know feel it goes well.
I haven't yet finished my defense, so I can't speak to that whole process, but my experiences regarding the proposal were similar to Pragma's and erg's. The committee was strict in that they didn't let anything slide as was the case for the master's thesis (i.e., where, in my opinion, they were more concerned with me grasping the general concept and process of conducting original research, and less so on the strict scientific validity and viability of it), but it was all very cordial and respectful. None of my committee members were insulting. Even my non-psych committee member was highly interested and enthusiastic, and gave me some great feedback.

Essentially, the committee gave me the feeling that they were trying to work with me to help my project be as successful and informative as possible. They pointed out potential pitfalls I hadn't thought of, asked me if I knew of ways to address these issues, and when I didn't, helped provide some solutions. As Pragma metnioned, when it comes to the content itself, by the time you get to just the proposal, you're likely going to know more about it than everyone else in the room. So beyond simply having that knowledge, they want to be sure you are applying it in a scientific manner, and that you can problem-solve appropriately.

I could see the defense also being somewhat stressful, but I think of it like this--by the time you get there, they've already approved your project. If you stick to what you proposed (and adequately problem-solved, with their input as necessary, along the way), you've done your job. Even if the results don't line up with what you'd thought (and when it comes to dissertations, this seems to be the exception rather than the rule), you've fulfilled your end of the bargain.

Remember, the dissertation is the last hurdle the program hurls at us, so it's their absolute last shot at making sure we're competent at what we do. I'm of the opinion that by the time you get there, it shouldn't even really be a question, but sometimes it is, and this is their chance to find out if you've "got what it takes."

Edit: I should also note that I was fairly well-prepared for the "harrowing" nature of the dissertation process by our program's comps, which are highly ambiguous and thus very stressful with regard to prep (much more so than the actual exam itself). Thus, by the time I got to the dissertation, I was used to the feeling of uncertainty.
 
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What are your experiences with the Dissertation and Oral Defense? I have completed three MS degrees and Theses but the Dissertation process is very labor intensive with vagueness and confusions during the process. The MS Theses process was more collaborative and student friendly than the Doctoral Dissertation process. I hate to be critical about this process but to some extent it is a humbling or negative experience and there seems to be some limits of the process that almost parallels verbal abuse or even verbal bullying by committee members and/or faculty. One of my committee members spend a good thirty minutes during a review of verbiage of a specific use of a word I used. At one point I was told my literature review was too long to the point of not having a narrow focus. I shortened my literature review, so at another meeting I was informed that the literature review needs to be more broadly based.

The mental gymnastics or "Mind Rape" that happens during this process...Is it really necessary? I've worked on this for some two-three years and my proposal is officially approved but now I have a new faculty member engaged in the process who believes I should look at a different research topic and he wants me to change my title and develop a different survey with different questions.

Has anybody given up at this point in time....you almost need to have an attorney representing you and a Judge presiding during these meetings with Dissertation Committee members. Does being a Dissertation Committee member allow these individuals too much power so they feel it is their right to be rude and obnoxious?
Goodness - 3 masters degrees - wow!
 
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Your school's dissertation process sounds much more disorganized than mine was. I would think this has alot to do with some of the back and forth that has gone on.

I never felt like anyone was "mind raping" me. Of the 4 members, one was my lab mentor and one had been a research practicum supervisor, so we all knew each other well. So, either your faculty are psychopaths or you're way too defensive about the process. Look, the process should be scientifically critical (which can often translate to being required to redo some things, cut some things out, or just some general pain in the ass stuff) but always, always respectful. I just had final defense and had a great time hashing it out with my "outside reader."
One major issue is adding new committee members when others leave and this is where I am having some issues currently. I have asked a number of psychologists who I know and many seem to have had similar experiences with going through the dissertation process and some have indicated they really haven't had a need or any desire to do any research or statistics after gaining licensure and working in the field.

I could be exagerating slighly somewhat as they are mostly respectful and encouraging to some extent. The feeling I get is that it has something to do with making you or mentoring you to maintain or upgrade to a certain level of quality.

Congrats on passing your Orals....I was wondering if anyone ever fails their oral defense or at least I have not heard of anyone getting this far and actually failing their oral defense.
 
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Goodness - 3 masters degrees - wow!
MS in Counseling and Guidance--1979
MS in Clinical Psychology --1988
EdS in School Psychology--1992 (basically an MS with 30 more hours)

PsyD in Clinical Psychology, Expected finish is June, 2013
 

AcronymAllergy

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One major issue is adding new committee members when others leave and this is where I am having some issues currently. I have asked a number of psychologists who I know and many seem to have had similar experiences with going through the dissertation process and some have indicated they really haven't had a need or any desire to do any research or statistics after gaining licensure and working in the field.

I could be exagerating slighly somewhat as they are mostly respectful and encouraging to some extent. The feeling I get is that it has something to do with making you or mentoring you to maintain or upgrade to a certain level of quality.

Congrats on passing your Orals....I was wondering if anyone ever fails their oral defense or at least I have not heard of anyone getting this far and actually failing their oral defense.
I definitely know of people who failed and/or decided to "voluntarily" leave and accept permanent ABD status. It's a rarity to be sure, particularly in funded programs where the school invests large amounts of money in students and ultimately wants them to graduate, but it happens.
 

Ollie123

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Have heard of people botching their defense to the point that they have to repeat the defense itself, but not anyone who has outright been told "start over". I'm not sure that would even be feasible given the scope of the typical dissertation here. However, the mentor has to approve a project before it goes to committee and I'm extremely doubtful any of our faculty would let someone schedule a defense if it wasn't clear they would pass. Revisions are common (and virtually guaranteed) but I've yet to hear of anyone failing.

My proposal is coming up in a few weeks, and I picked a rather...intense....committee, but did so by design. NIH liked it, so I assume if I'm even in the running for an F31 the department approval should be comparatively trivial. I expect some hassles given who I put on there, and some politics as well regarding the emphasis of particular theories. In general though - I agree with others. I'm confident I know the stuff far better than anyone on my committee, and chances are the majority of them won't even understand my analytic plan let alone be able to critique it. I think a lot of it boils to confidence and (relatedly) developing a think skin. No project is perfect and there is always something to critique. It can "seem" rough to an outsider, but I genuinely believe most faculty have the student's best interest in mind during proposals/defenses. I don't know anything about how it works at other schools but for me, my only major concern is getting participants in the door and through the protocol. Everything else is within my control and thus will get done, one way or another.
 
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I agree with the comments so far. In our program, there is some uncertainty as to what you will be asked during the defense, but the rest of the process is not vague or confusing. We have a proposal defense with our core committee and the dissertation oral defense with the whole committee. The proposal defense is where details regarding your methodology should be discussed. Once your core committee has officially approved your proposal, you should be all set without concerns about the committee asking for extremely significant changes. Something like adding on another questionnaire would never be asked of us after the committee has accepted the proposal -- even before data collection has been started, let alone after.

I also know people who had to redo their oral defense, and largely that was for individuals who defended during internship and didn't put effort into preparing for the defense after not having worked on their dissertation for several months. Changes to the dissertation should be expected after the defense, but nothing that would prevent you from graduating as long as you know your topic and did what you had proposed.
 

Shatani

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What are your experiences with the Dissertation and Oral Defense? I have completed three MS degrees and Theses but the Dissertation process is very labor intensive with vagueness and confusions during the process. The MS Theses process was more collaborative and student friendly than the Doctoral Dissertation process. I hate to be critical about this process but to some extent it is a humbling or negative experience and there seems to be some limits of the process that almost parallels verbal abuse or even verbal bullying by committee members and/or faculty. One of my committee members spend a good thirty minutes during a review of verbiage of a specific use of a word I used. At one point I was told my literature review was too long to the point of not having a narrow focus. I shortened my literature review, so at another meeting I was informed that the literature review needs to be more broadly based.

The mental gymnastics or "Mind Rape" that happens during this process...Is it really necessary? I've worked on this for some two-three years and my proposal is officially approved but now I have a new faculty member engaged in the process who believes I should look at a different research topic and he wants me to change my title and develop a different survey with different questions.

Has anybody given up at this point in time....you almost need to have an attorney representing you and a Judge presiding during these meetings with Dissertation Committee members. Does being a Dissertation Committee member allow these individuals too much power so they feel it is their right to be rude and obnoxious?
my dissertation process was actually incredibly collaborative; my chair was fabulous and the rest of my committee were too. i never felt attacked or anything like that.

orals was a bit different. i was actually told that i appeared too confident when one of the examiners thought i was wrong about something. had i looked more nervous, he would have had a different take. yeah, i dont know what im supposed to do with THAT information! i passed, but it was a process chock full of *******ry....
 

Shatani

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my dissertation process was actually incredibly collaborative; my chair was fabulous and the rest of my committee were too. i never felt attacked or anything like that.

orals was a bit different. i was actually told that i appeared too confident when one of the examiners thought i was wrong about something. had i looked more nervous, he would have had a different take. yeah, i dont know what im supposed to do with THAT information! i passed, but it was a process chock full of *******ry....
ooops! sorry, i forgot there's no cursing here! :)
 

erg923

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Just has my edits approved and sent the thing off for binding. What an experience! Where's the closest bonfire...

I thought I was all over until my comittee told me that publishing it would really help them when they write their proposal to the DSM5 psychosis workgroup. Thats great and all, but I was kind looking forward to just like, ya know, drinking some beer, watching golf, and napping on the weekend for a while.
 

Sanman

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Just has my edits approved and sent the thing off for binding. What an experience! Where's the closest bonfire...

I thought I was all over until my comittee told me that publishing it would really help them when they write their proposal to the DSM5 psychosis workgroup. Thats great and all, but I was kind looking forward to just like, ya know, drinking some beer, watching golf, and napping on the weekend for a while.
Tell me about it. My chair asked about when she could expect a manuscript from me for publication at lunch after my hooding. It really made me want to go back to the younger, more ambitious me from years ago and slap him in the face for agreeing to do that at the start of my dissertation project.
 

paramour

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:laugh: We've had students with similar experiences. But they finally determined they had no interest in writing up their dissertations for pubs and/or at least not in the timeline that their advisors wanted them done... so they gave their advisors permission to write it up themselves (and sometimes other students in the lab would end up with a nice authorship on their CV due to "helping out").
 

bmedclinic

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pretty much going to agree with Acronym Allergy on my take of the thesis & diss proposal.
Actually, I LOVED my dissertation proposal, and as sick as this sounds, am looking forward to my defense which I hope to do in a few short months!