BY KATHRYN PETERSON, PHD, DISSERTATION COACH
So, you’ve decided to hire a dissertation coach. Now that you’ve made this decision, you may be nervous and overwhelmed. It’s okay. That’s normal. A dissertation is an enormous endeavor. If you’ve decided to hire a coach, you’re going to want to find someone who fits you and provides legitimate services. Right now, if you google dissertation coach, you will get 8,170,000 results. That’s a lot of information to sift through.
To help you navigate this earliest stage of hiring a dissertation coach, we’ve put together a list of things to consider. Searching for help with your dissertation doesn’t have to be so overwhelming. You just need to figure out what you want and whether or not a potential coach can provide it.
Things to Consider when You Hire a Dissertation Coach
Know What You Are Looking For
In general, dissertation assistance breaks down into a few categories, and not all are the same. Typically, dissertation coaches help you manage the behavioral aspects of writing a dissertation, such as time management and dealing with writing blocks. Dissertation consultants, on the other hand, tend to help with the content of the dissertation. They may help you shore up your statistical knowledge or respond to your adviser’s feedback. Dissertation consultants often work with you at key developmental stages, like evaluating the soundness of your research plan, or helping you to edit down a lengthy document.
At The Dissertation Coach, we make a distinction between coaching and consulting. Our coaches assist students with goal setting, task management and navigating thorny issues with their advisers and committees. We help students deal with common challenges like impostor syndrome, procrastination, and overcoming perfectionism. Our consultants help explain the differences in statistical approaches, help students make sense of the data they’ve collected, and intervene at various stages of the writing process. Other companies don’t make this distinction, so be sure you know what you need and can articulate it to the person you’re hiring. Some companies use the word “coach” to mean both services and others incorporate coaching within consulting. So, make sure you clarify exactly what services you’ll get when you start working with someone.
Know who is in Charge
Make sure that there is a caring person in charge. It’s fine if there is a team of consultants and coaches, but if there is no clear leader of that team, it can be difficult to determine who will take responsibility for the work. You may want to google several of the members of the team to make sure they are reputable and that one of them will be a good fit for you.
Conversely, if the company only consists of one individual who provides services, you may want to consider what will happen if that person suddenly has an emergency and cannot help you. Are there backup people? How will that person handle it if they go on vacation or get sick? Will you be left without assistance for a substantial period of time?
Look for a Professional Presence
As with any service, look at the way that the company presents itself. Is the website generally well designed and easy to navigate? Are the photos professional and is the text readable? And are there photos of the team members with bios so that you know who they are? Are there typos or any other tip offs that maybe the company hasn’t paid as much attention to detail as they should, particularly since they’re positioning themselves to help you with a very difficult, detail-oriented project?
Look for a good track record
Are there testimonials on the website? If not, can the company’s owner put you in touch with at least three former clients who will vouch for the work that the coach or consultant has done? Who recommends this person? How long has the company existed? There are dissertation coaches who have been helping students since the 1990s, and others who run startups and have less than two years of experience. As long as there are significant testimonials, even if the company is brand new, it might still be a good fit, but it’s important to know what kind of track record and history the company has.
Make Sure the Company Operates Ethically
Neither dissertation coaching nor dissertation consulting is ghostwriting. If a coach offers to write your dissertation for you, run. Unfortunately, because almost anyone can say they’re a dissertation coach, it is easy to run into scammers. These people are unethical and will, usually for a very large fee, write dissertations or other academic work for their clients. This is a clear ethical violation and an obvious transgression of academic honesty. Before you hire a dissertation coach or consultant, ask what specifically they will do. If they do developmental editing, make sure your program allows this (some encourage it while others do not), and be clear on the ethical boundaries of what the consultant can do. Usually getting feedback and suggestions is fine, but if they are rewriting whole passages, that is not. Make sure you are on the same page, both with the person you hire, and with the academic integrity policies of your university.
Only Hire Companies that Offer a Free Consultation
Some companies want people to pay thousands of dollars up front without getting a chance to interview their coach or consultant. We advise against this. We tell all our prospective clients we want them to find the best fit whether they choose us or someone else. Don’t pay too much money up front, and definitely not to a person who isn’t going to be your coach.
Hire the Dissertation Coach Who is Right for You
Whether you are looking for a coach or consultant, it’s important that the person you hire has the emotional intelligence, experience, and bandwidth to assist you. Even the most experienced coach or consultant will not be a good fit if they are not available when you are or if their style of working with people clashes with your needs.
Before you hire a dissertation coach, pay attention to your body. Ultimately, your body should say yes. You should be able to FEEL the fit. If you’re on the fence, ask to think before you commit so you can reflect upon what’s causing hesitation. You may need to interview a few people before you find the right fit. It is important that you feel good about the decision you make.