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Prof keeps asking me to revise proposal....


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I've revised my research proposal for like 7 times so far, but the prof keeps asking me to revise it. I really do not understand what is wrong with my proposal. I have addressed all of the prof's questions/comments, but the prof still hits me with new issues. This is her recent email: I am sending you the proposal with feedback. You have had numerous opportunities to re-submit your study topic. I have provided you with a lot of feedback; however it appears that you are not understanding the issues. I hope the comments in this version will help you in developing an appropriate description". I don't even know what is wrong? And I don't get about the comment "you have had numerous opportunities to re-submit your study topic". Last week, the prof said through email that my topic was fine???

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I think you need to schedule a meeting with the professor to go over the comments in person, so you can understand what she is asking you to do. It sounds like there are problems that she has been repeatedly pointing out or changes that she's been asking you to make, but you haven't been able to address them. It also sounds like she has been trying to use different wordings in her comments on different drafts to get you to address the issues, but you are instead taking each set of comments to be new and distinct from the previous draft so you are not interpreting her the right way. It's not going to be possible for us to help you more here. What you really need to do is sit down with her in person and get a clearer idea of what is lacking and how you should go about fixing it. Make sure you go over her comments so you understand what she wants you to do and come up with a detailed plan for actual actions you'll take (add section X, reformulate question Y, add lit review of issue Z). Don't just make changes and send her another version -- it's clear that there is a failure in communication between you. Talk to her in person first to make sure you are both on the same page. 

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Thank you for the advice! Another issue is that she makes comments such as, "As I noted in my earlier comments, what is an outdoor routine?".....but she never mentioned that in a previous draft. My revisions has just been an elaboration about what she does not understand about. I feel like it never ends. Why couldn't she address all issues in the first draft so that I can address it all at once? I wonder if she doesn't like my idea?

Edited by universitystudent
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It's pretty clear that your professor wants you to go beyond addressing each of her specific comments and expand to addressing the broader issues which her comments are pointing out to you. That is, if you didn't explain what an outdoor routine is, there are probably other terms in your paper which you also haven't fully explained or clarified. Your professor expects you to do broader revisions and reconsider the entire proposal each time, which it sounds like you haven't been doing.

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2 hours ago, universitystudent said:

I've revised my research proposal for like 7 times so far, but the prof keeps asking me to revise it. I really do not understand what is wrong with my proposal. I have addressed all of the prof's questions/comments, but the prof still hits me with new issues. This is her recent email: I am sending you the proposal with feedback. You have had numerous opportunities to re-submit your study topic. I have provided you with a lot of feedback; however it appears that you are not understanding the issues. I hope the comments in this version will help you in developing an appropriate description". I don't even know what is wrong? And I don't get about the comment "you have had numerous opportunities to re-submit your study topic". Last week, the prof said through email that my topic was fine???

What subject are you in? Things like this generally depend on the kind of subject you are studying. If you are in humanities such as history or literature, you really need to get your prof to tell you what exactly he/she wants (profs in humanities sometimes have very different perspectives that may contradict to those of other profs, and conflicts of opinions in humanities are hard to reconcile. So, it is better to follow whatever the prof wants).

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Are you citing sources for the methods you want to use? That's one way to make it clear to the prof that your research design is rooted in established practices. 

In all seriousness, you need to meet with the professor ASAP about this.

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3 hours ago, universitystudent said:

Thank you for the advice! Another issue is that she makes comments such as, "As I noted in my earlier comments, what is an outdoor routine?".....but she never mentioned that in a previous draft. My revisions has just been an elaboration about what she does not understand about. I feel like it never ends. Why couldn't she address all issues in the first draft so that I can address it all at once? I wonder if she doesn't like my idea?

Two things. First, when a professor says "I don't understand X" that's often a nice way of saying "X doesn't make sense/is wrong". More generally, if a reader tells you s/he doesn't understand something you said, that would tend to imply that something you are doing is perhaps unclear, not well organized, or just wrong. If you think you're not wrong, then you might not be presenting your argument clearly; you should re-think how to make your points accessible to your readers. If you're not defining key terminology or if you're not careful with your methodology, you should slow down and make sure you cite the literature and give clear definitions. Second, when there are many issues with a student's work, pedagogically it's often better to start out by pointing out just a few major issues (structural, depth of the arguments, clarity of the main points, mistakes in methods, lack/misunderstanding of prior research, etc); only once those are clear -- which often might require a lot of reworking and rewriting of text on the part of the student -- does it make sense to give more specific and detailed comments. Giving them all at once can be overwhelming and can make it hard for the student to see which points are over-arching and really crucial, and which are perhaps lower-level or specific to a particular part or point you make. So, I think the way your advisor has been approaching your proposal makes a lot of sense. 

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Interesting, thank you. I also don't understand why she sounds like blaming me. In her recent email, she added "You have had numerous opportunities to re-submit your study topic". She initially did write back that she was fine with the topic, but suggested that I narrow it down, which I did.

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Again, it's hard to know without seeing the actual proposal and comments, but it seems clear that there is a failure in communication. If she is saying you've had numerous opportunities to correct some mistake or add something that was missing but you haven't done so, then I would take that to mean that she's given you relevant comments multiple times in the past that you've misinterpreted or misunderstood. Since that is the case, she might be getting frustrated that you are ignoring her suggestions or not doing what she asked for. It takes a lot of time and energy to comment on a student's work, and if that student seems to be repeatedly ignoring what they are told, that can be lead to exactly the kind of response that you are getting now. You need to meet with her and discuss these things in person, so you are both clear about what is missing from the proposal and what needs to change. It would be good to do this without assigning any blame or getting upset; simply ask to go over the comments so that you can understand where she's pointed out problems and potential solutions in the past, so that you can learn how to read and understand the feedback she's been giving you. It would help to make clear that you've not been ignoring her suggestions, but perhaps you have had a hard time understanding what they are asking for, so actually talking about them in person might help clarify where you are understanding something different than what she meant. 

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Thanks very much! :) I have just sent an email to the prof. I really hope it is just misunderstanding over email. One of her previous comments in my proposal was, " I have asked you many times why you want children to draw pictures and you have not provided a clear rationale for this strategy". My proposal already said, "Through drawings and semi-structured questions, children will have opportunity to express their ideas both visually and verbally".

Edited by universitystudent
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27 minutes ago, universitystudent said:

One of her previous comments in my proposal was, " I have asked you many times why you want children to draw pictures and you have not provided a clear rationale for this strategy". My proposal already said, "Through drawings and semi-structured questions, children will have opportunity to express their ideas both visually and verbally".

Your statement is WAY too vague. Why do you want them to express their ideas in drawings? What specific ideas are you looking for them to express? How does having children draw these pictures help you answer your research question(s)? That is, how will you analyze the data you collect through the drawings and how will that analysis address your research question(s)?

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Hi everyone, this is the profs reply to my request to meet: "At this point I would suggest you write your proposal based on the last project description that you submitted yesterday. Keep in mind that you are not undertaking this study to determine preschoolers' definition of group time but rather gathering data related to their views on this activity". Does this mean it is ok now? 

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6 hours ago, universitystudent said:

Hi everyone, this is the profs reply to my request to meet: "At this point I would suggest you write your proposal based on the last project description that you submitted yesterday. Keep in mind that you are not undertaking this study to determine preschoolers' definition of group time but rather gathering data related to their views on this activity". Does this mean it is ok now? 

No, it doesn't mean that it's okay. The professor is clearly saying that your project isn't focused on the right goal and that you need to modify your proposal based on the last description you submitted and while keeping in mind what the goal of the study is ("gathering data related to [preschoolers'] views on this activity").

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Thee OP meets his advisor as advised and then follow up instead of trying to rush through the process by solicit into advice here. And take the advice to clearly define your terms and provide a rationale for why your research design will answer your question(s). 

Edited by GradSchoolTruther
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