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Getting thesis committee signatures

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My Master's program requires four committee members, including my advisor, who must all sign a form approving my thesis before I can graduate. It is a smallish program, and one of my committee members is married to my advisor.


I have finished writing my thesis and I know one committee member has signed, but my advisor has custody of the signature sheet. Everyone must sign before May 27 if I am to graduate in August.


Problem:  The last person to review my thesis (the one married to my advisor) has asked me to make some substantive changes (having to do with theoretical perspective). The advisor has said NOT to make substantive changes. I assume, but maybe I am wrong, that people who have already signed should have a chance to review my work again if I make any major changes.


I don't know what my responsibility is.

I could make the requested changes and probably those who have already signed would never know the difference, but that seems deceptive to me. 

I could make the changes and send it around to the committee members who have already signed, but hesitate to do so without going through my advisor.

I could ask my advisor what to do, but don't want to appear to be going around the spouse who wants the changes made.


I really do not know if the advisor is reading either my revisions or the email exchanges I've been having with the spouse.


How does this work, and what is the wise course of action?


Thanks in advance.

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I think you need to get an email going with you, your advisor and his wife and come to an agreement about the changes that should be made. I am sure that some disagreement between committee members is normal so you guys just have to find a compromise that everyone can agree to.

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Disagreement among committee members is normal. Find out what your program's policies are. For my Masters degree, following the thesis defense, there are 3 different "pass" options the committee might decide on:


1. Pass without revisions (rare)

2. Pass with revisions as approved by advisor (most common)

3. Pass with revisions as approved by committee (for problematic cases)


Most people pass with option 2, and in this case, it's up to your advisor to sign off on the final copy. Other committee members would have to sign that thesis form too, but they don't get to see the final copy before signing (i.e. they put their trust in your advisor to decide what changes need or does not need to be addressed).


So, I would advise you to talk to your advisor right away. Don't make it look like you are "going around" anyone and act as if the two people are not married and do not read each other's emails. Tell your advisor about the changes requested, your concerns about timeline and ask what their advice is. 


In my case, after receiving revision notes, my advisor and I went over all of them and we decided what needed and what didn't need to be change. We chose not to implement about 1/3 of the committee's suggested revisions. 


In academia, you are always the one in control of your work. Even in peer-reviewed papers, the referee will make suggestions that you do not agree with. You don't have to make every single change your referee or committee member asks of you. In my paper's referee reports, there are points where I disagree so I address it by explaining why my way is better and the referee has always accepted that. The point of these revisions is not a command from the professor to you, but opening a dialogue on how to improve your work. Opening a discussion between you, your advisor, and (eventually) the committee member is the right thing to do.

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So, I would advise you to talk to your advisor right away. Don't make it look like you are "going around" anyone and act as if the two people are not married and do not read each other's emails. Tell your advisor about the changes requested, your concerns about timeline and ask what their advice is. 


THIS. You already asked your advisor what to do and were already told not to make substantial changes. So, listen to your advisor and don't make any major changes. If you want clarification, ask again.


It is completely normal for committee members to disagree about whether revisions are needed and the extent required. In the case of my MA thesis, people wanted varying degrees of revision and my advisor ultimately decided what I needed to do and what I didn't need to do. The other committee members did NOT review my thesis again to see if I'd made those changes. But, that had already been decided by them when they met privately to discuss my thesis. My advisor suggested that they didn't have time to read it again, and they agreed to let her supervise the changes that were made. 


In other words, every situation varies but, your advisor is the one who should be determining what needs to happen from here. And ASAP since the deadline is this week!

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Thank you to everyone who responded. It's really a lifesaver to have your input on such short notice!


I know I need the signatures of every committee member. What I don't know is whether everyone is willing to sign.


I will write to my advisor without CC'ing his wife, and ask him if she has already signed or is willing to do so without the major changes, and if he is happy with the document's current version. From the advice here, it sounds like this approach should clarify the matter for me without being taken as inappropriate or insulting to the other committee members, including his wife.

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Follow up:


I got a quick reply back from my advisor saying not to make any more changes, but to be sure I understood the critique. He will make sure all the signatures are done by the deadline.


Thanks again to all of you!

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Serenade, not sure why you would say this here. The OP's issue would have been the same regardless of whether or not there were spouses involved.


And it might have facilitated things, e.g., a quick dinner table conversation might have resolved all of the problems.


Advisor: "Hey, did you ask for all these changes?"

Spouse: "Yes, I thought blah blah blah."

Advisor: "That makes sense but it needs to be in tomorrow."

Spouse: [shrug] "No problem, it's your student."

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