Dear Dissertation Diva:
I was set to defend in two weeks but I just got feedback on a chapter draft from one of my committee members. The draft is full of suggested corrections! His exact words were: "This chapter needs substantial revisions before you are ready to defend." I'm freaking out. I don't have time to make these changes by next week. This committee member came on board recently (this past year) and has not followed the project from the start. It's the methodology chapter on a combined quantitative-qualitative social sciences dissertation. I've worked on this for ten years! My outside methodologist approved it, and the chair of my committee also thinks the project works although there are problems. I want to defend, rent a UHaul, and drive my stuff to my new job out of state... a teaching job that starts in mid-August. Any advice?
I Can't Believe This Is Happening
Are you absolutely sure this committee member will block your project if you do go through with the defense? Would it help to have this committee member see the entire dissertation including the results, not just the methodology chapter, if they have not already? Can you ask your Chair to speak to this committee member? What you have on your hands is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by your chair and among the committee members, especially since a defense date is set and you will be starting a teaching position shortly. I can't wave the Dissertation Diva Magic Wand on this one.
You are probably doing this already, but you may want to communicate with the chairperson of your committee and the head of your graduate program immediately about this discrepancy between a green light from your chair and methodologist and a red/yellow light from another, more recent committee member. These two people in charge may decide to move forward with your defense and to let you defend your project in front of the entire committee, which is what your defense is FOR. Perhaps there is a miscommunication about what is acceptable; perhaps the committee member in question needs to see the entire dissertation (not just a single chapter) to fully appreciate that you have addressed these issues elsewhere in the write-up. Hopefully the defense will be the space and time for the committee member's questions to be addressed satisfactorily. Your chair will be there to back up the project, right?
Finally, don't despair. You are at the end of a long and winding road. Your chair and other committee members would not have let you come this far without understanding and supporting your project, and will want to help you make arrangements to make agreed-upon revisions after the defense and prior to the granting of the degree. Get your second (third, forth, fifth) wind and keep sailing forward!