Essays

The essays serve as the comprehensive examinations at Saybrook University in the Psychology Degree Program. If you are considering asking me to serve on your essay committee or chair, I have included some information about my approach to working with the essays below. If you are considering asking me to chair or serve on your essay committee, I would encourage you to review my vita to become familiar with my areas of experience.

Essay Chair

It is very important to have an essay committee that works well together. For this reason, it is generally recommended to identify your chair first and then talk with her or him about other possible members. While who you ask to serve on the committee needs to be your choice, it is good to talk through the possibilities with your chair. As it is common for students to keep the same committee for dissertation, it can be important to consider your dissertation committee needs as well when selecting an essay committee. If you would like to discuss with me the possibility of chairing your essay committee, I would encourage you to set up an appointment at a Saybrook Residential Conference or Email me to request a time for a phone call or Skype conversation.

Essay Committee Member

Based on several years of experience, I have developed several strategies and preferences when working together on essays that I strongly recommend:

* Students have different preferences for frequency and format of communication. I believe it is beneficial for us to be in contact at least every 3 weeks at a minimum. During many portions of the essay process we will be in communication much more frequently than this. Many students prefer to have weekly Email, phone, or Skype check ins. My goal is always to find what works best for the student to assure consistent progress toward completion. It is helpful to discuss these preferences as we first start working together.  If, after a couple of months, it does not appear that progress is being made, I may strongly encourage us to be in contact once a week or every other week.

* Before beginning to write your essay, please submit an outline with the major headings you plan to use. This helps to identify any potential “holes” in your essay before beginning to work. Additionally, if there are organization adjustments that are necessary, it is much easier to address these at the outset. Of course, as you immerse yourself in the literature there may be changes to the outline; however, the initial outline greatly reduces the likelihood that the changes needed will be major changes.

* With essays, it is always important to be prepared for revisions. Most students need at least 3-5 revisions on an essay in my experience. However, with each revision there are generally fewer and smaller changes needed. At a certain point I will suggest that you begin highlighting any changes in yellow so that I can just focus on the changes to the essay.

* I encourage students to be cognizant of time issues. If you wish to be working on an essay over break (which I strongly encourage), I recommend that we talk before break to discuss the direction of your essay and how to best use the break. Additionally, please keep in mind that I have an ongoing cue with essays and dissertations, reviewing them in the order that they are submitted. It is common for students to submit toward the end of the term hoping for a quick turn around and completing their essay before the end of the term. This is often unrealistic as I am also grading many class papers and have other deadlines that are at the end of the term. You will typically get a quicker turnaround time if submitting before week 12.

* With essays, it is important that your final essay is in correct APA style. I do not correct every instance of a repeated error. Please keep in mind that when a repeated error is corrected on your essay you should review your entire essay to correct all instances of this error.

* If you are working with me on the methodological critique essay, there are a few additional suggestions to consider. First, the purpose of the critique is for you to deepen your understanding of the organization and expectations of each section of the dissertation. However, it is also to deepen your understanding of methodology. Thus, it is more important to find a dissertation that is similar to the methodology you are planning to use for your dissertation than finding a topic that is similar to your dissertation topic. This will serve you much better once you begin working on your own dissertation. For this essay, I strongly encourage you to purchase a book such as Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation: A Road Map from Beginning to End by Bloomberg and Volpe, to serve as a guide. For this essay, you will be discussing the expectations of each section of the dissertation and then using this to critique the dissertation you selected to review. Having a good guide or overview of the different sections of the dissertation is very helpful in completing this essay.


Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt