"I do not think that they will sing to me"
At today's workshop, we discussed the difficulty in getting committee members to give you feedback in a timely fashion (or sometimes, in a fashion at all).
Committee members may have family obligations, professional obligations, be doing extra time serving on search committees, etc. They may be on sabbatical, they may be working on other large projects, and they are most certainly serving on multiple dissertation committees.
You don't want to piss them off, but on the other hand, it's been x weeks... x months....etc and you have to know where to go from here!
This is an ongoing discussion in the group, and one that guest speaker Professor Lori Anne Ferrell may address in our next meeting on February 23rd.
Here are some of the ideas we shared today:
Be assertive. Let your committee members what you need and when you need it by. Give them a few date / time options and let them choose what works best for their schedules.
For example, try asking: "If I submit _____ by this date_____, do you think you could get it back to me by _______?"
That leaves it open for the committee member to say, "No, I have this commitment on this date, but what about the following week?"
That way, the conversation becomes a negotiation, and you both know where the other side is coming from and what sort of expectations you both have.
Another idea (and this works for scheduling qualifying exams, defenses, everything!) is to give the person three options and let them choose which works best for them. For example: "I would like to meet on Monday the 15th at 12:00 or 1:00, or Tuesday the 16th at 3:00. Do any of those times work for you?"
When I was working at a florist, we had a wall full of possible ribbons to wrap flowers in. We found that if you asked the customer which color she wanted, she would stare at all of the choices and not be able to decide, or take forever to decide. But if you simply narrowed down the choices for her and asked, "Would you like the green, blue, or yellow ribbon?" the customer could easily decide. I think the same principle holds true for setting appointment days and times---if you leave it wide open until infinity, nothing will happen. But if you narrow the choice down, it's much easier for someone to check their calendar and choose one.