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Do I Need a Dissertation Coach?

The quick answer is “yes”: even the best students can benefit from the support of an experienced dissertation coach.

In this article, I explain the 101 of dissertation coaching, so you know what to expect and how to decide if coaching is right for you.

Whether you are just starting out in your graduate studies or approaching a major dissertation milestone, the chances are you have seen a lot of advertisements for dissertation coaching services. However, you may not be sure what exactly a dissertation coach does, whether you personally would benefit from dissertation help, or how to choose a top-quality coach from the crowd.

What does a dissertation coach do?

A PhD coach’s first and foremost priority is to help you cross the dissertation finishing line, so that you don’t end up wasting your time, effort, and money by sticking at ABD – or worse, failing to finish altogether.

To achieve this goal, a dissertation coach will provide many different services, including:

  • Provide moral support and inspiration

  • Offer writing and research tutoring and help

  • Provide career and publishing advice

  • Offer accountability

  • Help with organization and ways of working

If you are just starting out with your dissertation, a coach can help you select your topic (and make sure it is focused, original, and relevant), formulate an overall objective, and create a plan of attack for deliverables and scope of work.

In contrast, if you have already started your dissertation, a coach might help you get past a rut, overcome writers block, solve a tricky research problem, or even organize your research data into coherent written documents.

Some dissertation coaches will also provide academic career advice, from help with job hunting and application portfolios to support in publishing and conferencing for better academic exposure.

How much does dissertation coaching cost?

You can expect to pay anything from $800 to $4000 per semester for dissertation coaching, depending on the level of service and the expertise of the coach.

While this may seem expensive, it is important to weigh this cost against the greater expense of delayed graduation or dropping out. When you are spending thousands of dollars in tuition costs and related expenses, it is worth investing a little bit more to ensure that money is not wasted.

If coaching is beyond your current financial reach, there are also other options for dissertation help and dissertation tutoring. First and foremost, check out the services offered by your institution. From writing studios and career advisors to in-house tutors, most institutions provide some support free of charge to enrolled students. You can also hire a coach for only a specific and limited need, such as dissertation manuscript editing, help with formatting, or advice on academic careers.

What are the benefits of working with a dissertation coach?

Working with a dissertation coach will help you stay on track and motivated, produce top-quality writing and research, and soar through your defense with minimal stress.

This is important, because not all supervisors have the time and resources to provide this level of support to their students consistently. A good dissertation coach acts as your supervisor when your actual supervisor is too busy.

With plenty of academic writing, researching, and publishing experience behind them, a dissertation coach can also help make sure the work you are producing is high quality. A coach can spot if something is missing from your research, if you are focusing too much energy on something tangential, or if you have gaps or flaws in your logic or presentation.

Best of all, you are your coach’s number one priority, so your coach will always be invested in providing you with inspiration and moral support. It is your coach’s job to be excited and enthusiastic about your work (even when you are not), helping you remember why you are doing a dissertation project in the first place.

How do I recognize a good coach?

The level of expertise you should look for in a coach will vary depending on how much specialized support you think you will need. As a bare minimum, a good coach should have at least a master’s and preferably a doctoral degree to their name. This helps you to know they are coaching you through a process they themselves have successfully negotiated.

This is important, because not all supervisors have the time and resources to provide this level of support to their students consistently. A good dissertation coach acts as your supervisor when your actual supervisor is too busy.

With plenty of academic writing, researching, and publishing experience behind them, a dissertation coach can also help make sure the work you are producing is high quality. A coach can spot if something is missing from your research, if you are focusing too much energy on something tangential, or if you have gaps or flaws in your logic or presentation.

Best of all, you are your coach’s number one priority, so your coach will always be invested in providing you with inspiration and moral support. It is your coach’s job to be excited and enthusiastic about your work (even when you are not), helping you remember why you are doing a dissertation project in the first place.

If you think you will need in-depth support with your research topic, it will also help to find a coach whose degree is in a field close to or the same as your own. If you are going to want a lot of writing support, such as editing or help with the organization and formatting of your manuscript, you should look for a coach with experience as an academic editor or proofreader. Similarly, if you are going to want career advice and support, look for a coach with a strong publication and research record, who has worked in academia.

Finally, it goes without saying that a good coach will be one you feel comfortable working with, whose company you enjoy, whose opinions you respect, and whose judgement you trust. A coaching relationship depends on the ability of the coach and student to work together, so it is worth taking the time to make sure you “gel” with your coach before signing up!

Want to find out more about how a dissertation coach can help you? Sign up for a free session today!