Is there such a thing as a PhD consultant?
April 12, 2021 4:08 PM   Subscribe

A family member is having difficulty drafting an acceptable proposal for their doctorate.

Their advisor is remote (in both senses of the word) and not particularly helpful. It's difficult to schedule Zoom meetings, and there may be some fundamental communication issues. Changing advisors is not an option, and the advisor isn't actively sabotaging this person, so please don't suggest changing advisors.

Would it be possible to pay for an active, working PhD advisor to read and discuss a proposal in-depth? I'm thinking similar to the functions writing centers tend to perform, but with a working professional who actually does this and has students of their own, rather than other students.

(Any other approaches would be welcome.)
posted by Nonce to Education (8 answers total)
The big name person that I know of who does this is Karen Kelsky; look in the "individual help" tab. There might be other similar consultants out there in specific disciplines, though.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 4:24 PM on April 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Different fields will have very different approaches and responses here. Can you tell what area your family member is in?
posted by Maecenas at 4:33 PM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Your family member might also consider asking for help within their department. Whichever faculty member is in charge of the graduate student program may have advice for them (part of their job it to help sort out this sort of thing, but it doesn't mean they will).

I've also seen committee members take on this role.
posted by Metasyntactic at 4:36 PM on April 12, 2021 [8 favorites]

Proposals are tricky in part because there is not necessarily a single standard format. Has the family member talked to previous students of this advisor and asked those students if they would share proposal drafts? That would at least provide some useful examples of what the advisor wants. Also, those students might have suggestions for other faculty members who could provide additional support as your family member navigates working with the particular advisor. After all, the proposal is just the first step in a long process and the difficulty of completing this step bodes poorly for completing the dissertation unless some work around is developed.

The writing center might very well have a program for graduate students or advanced writers. Also, the graduate school might have peer writing groups or other related supports in place. It is worth reaching out to the Writing Center Director and the Graduate Student Administrators respectively to ask about resources.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 4:43 PM on April 12, 2021 [7 favorites]

People above have covered the role from within a program (faculty) or university (writing program, etc.). As far as people who can be hired privately outside, a common term for this is "dissertation coach".
posted by Jahaza at 5:19 PM on April 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Do not go to Karen Kelsky. It is a waste of time and money. I speak from experience. DM if you want specifics. She's also been quite horrible to contingent faculty over on social media.

I haven't used her services but I greatly appreciated the work of Leanne Powner. She's organized writing accountability/feedback groups for years, which I have greatly benefited from (that's how I finished my dissertation and got out multiple publications). It looks like she has branched out quite a bit over the years to include small-group dissertation coaching.

One of the folks I met from those writing groups is actually an academic/career coach, Leslie Kern. In addition to coaching services, she provides editing services. She's really warm and generous person and very supportive of grad students.
posted by wasabifooting at 1:41 AM on April 13, 2021

If by any chance this relates to practice-based research in the arts memail me as I may be able to help.
posted by Chairboy at 4:31 AM on April 13, 2021

Seconding Wasabifooting's caution against going to Karen Kelsey. Happy to talk more via DM.
posted by ASlackerPestersMums at 6:05 AM on April 13, 2021

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