Dissertation Feedback: Ignore Selective Hearing

Selective hearing is a human trait – we hear what we want to hear. So when it comes to getting feedback on your dissertation, it can feel like a personal attack. Feedback is a double-edge sword of the good and bad. But when we hear the negatives, that’s all we hear. And we tend to block out the positives.

During our dissertation journey, Dr. Patti and I had to ignore our selective hearing. We had to be active listeners, open to feedback, and figure out how to use criticism to our advantage. How do you respond to the feedback about your dissertation? You don’t take it personally.

Three Kinds of Feedback

During your dissertation journey, remind yourself that the job of the gatekeeper is to keep you on point. Our gatekeepers were dissertation committee members, the Internal Review Board, the university research reviewer, or anyone who read our drafts.

There are actually three kinds of feedback: good, bad and vague. Good and bad feedback is clear.

But we’d likely get a vague comment: “How does this answer your research question?” “Where’s the connection to your analysis?” “What’s the context for this statement?”

And open-ended questions (How? Where? What?) were the worse kind – you have to answer them with more explanations.

Muddled Thinking, Moving Parts

Dissertation feedback meant that we had to do more work – revisions, editing, research, thinking, and writing. How do you work with negative feedback? Trying to make sense out of feedback is like digging through a tangled mess of cables and wires.

Our advice is to remember that negative feedback is not always bad. Adult learners rely on life experiences, we know what’s right. When it comes to your dissertation, time to leave that myth behind.

The dissertation process has many moving parts – you’ll never know how they fit unless you’ve done it before. If your writing is unclear, then your thinking is muddled.

Bad feedback is your opportunity to dig deep. Do the hard work to figure out what you’re really trying to say. We found it was a good way to keep our brain cells connected to make new ideas!

Feedback As a Tool

We suggest that you apply feedback as a learning tool. Your analysis,  understanding of difficult concepts, and writing will be stronger. Feedback opens your mind and builds problem solving skills.

Again, feedback is not personal – it’s part of learning.

Yes, it’s scary to put your dissertation out there for the first time for others to read. But it’s also good to know what others think about your ideas. You need to know where the weaknesses are in your dissertation.

Take the opportunity to change weaknesses into strengths. Feedback is an important tool in your dissertation toolkit.

Use it wisely.


Dr. Bessie and Dr. Patti

Successful people use failures to sharpen their intuition by acknowledging mistakes for what they truly are – feedback.
~~~Gordana Biernat~~~

Author: Doctor Tales

Doctor Tales Blog

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