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I successfully defended my dissertation one month before. My department head even emailed to congratulate me. I was given only one clear set of revision requests to do, for approval signatures.

However, my chair departed from those revision suggestions, and asks for "a survey of every approach in my field" that was not in the original and only set of requested revisions, and was not mentioned on the defense day or years prior to that.

A month after my defense, my chair also deleted a lot of paragraphs in my dissertation as a part of her revision requests. Deletion of paragraphs was also not in the requested revisions. She never asked for deletion of the paragraphs or any paragraph before.

She then went on to complain that I did not do the revision requests from the defense day but did not tell me which specific revision request I did not do. Instead, she went on to give new revision comments that were never given or discussed before, blaming it on my dissertation that passed.

Is this normal? What can be done?

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    We don't know what the regulations at your school are. Do you?
    – Kimball
    Oct 16 at 23:13
  • It is a state-flag US university. It does not share regulations clearly on their website and the grad school ombudsman was not sure what the policy was and went on to ask the graduate school dean. She said she will intervene if things go off the rails again because, now, it seems that things are back on the rails. Peer universities are very clear about the policy, as David Smith below wrote. Thank you!
    – Procopius
    Oct 17 at 12:33
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These requests appear to be violations of University policies regarding the review and approval of dissertations.

Your dissertation is approved by your committee according to written policies of your university or graduate school, not only by your advisor. It is not unusual for the committee to either request changes or suggest changes or to approve a dissertation subject to certain changes.

Changes should all be minor, mostly stylistic. Substantive changes should have been worked out before the stage of committee approval.

I suggest you get all the history of the requested changes together and organized to meet with others.

First meet with your advisor/chair and get clarity on agreement or disagreement on with each and every item. Keep in mind that it is your dissertation but it must meet the standards of the university and the profession when having these discussions. Suggestions should be taken seriously and deserve a response but that does not require that your dissertation be rewritten.

At the same time, identify the person or persons at your department or university who is the next step of appeal. Know this person's office, eg, Associate Dean, name, and phone number before meeting with your advisor.

If you and your advisor/chair have different views of whether changes should be made, then ask to meet with your advisor and the named officer together to discuss the next step. If you advisor declines then meet with the named officer yourself. Explain what has happened in detail. Ask the named officer how to proceed according to university policy. Be sure to say this. You are not there for personal advice. You want the university and its faculty, particularly your advisor, to adhere to university policy, absolutely and completely.

Any further recommendations depend completely on the procedures approved by your university or by designated agents, eg, the Dean of the Graduate School in many cases.

Please keep in mind that your advisor might not understand how serious it is to comply with university policy. Your advisor does not get to decide whatever they want will- nilly. You want someone in an administrative position of authority to explain to your advisor what they and you can do now that your dissertation has been approved.

It is possible that you might obtain legal counsel in this matter. A dean or other higher officer knows that and will see to it that university policy is adhered to completely, both by your advisor and by you.

You are not the first. Good luck.

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  • Update: After using your policy-focused words and messages here in an email to her, she completely changed. In her new revisions, none of those willy-nilly comments are there, as how it should have been from the start. It is resolved! I will surely take it to higher-ups if she does it again when she receives the next draft from me. Thank you so much. You saved me from a lot of unnecessary trouble.
    – Procopius
    Oct 17 at 17:54
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    All's well that ends well - William Shakespeare Oct 18 at 0:28

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