Dissertation Coach/ Mentor

Experienced & Effective Dissertation Coach


Concrete guidance & compassionate support from Concept Development through successful Defense:


The scholarly pursuit can be fraught with anxiety, judgment and competition, but it also presents an opportunity for self-transformation. With curiosity, excitement about a project well-defined, and the encouraging support of an experienced coach, writing a dissertation can be abundantly rewarding.

With over 20 years of experience coaching and teaching graduate students, I offer strong academic guidance and compassionate support in equal measure.

I taught “Dissertation Formulation” workshops that helped over 100 students launch their dissertations, transforming vague topics or areas of interest into researchable problems and coherent theses. As a Chair/Advisor for dozens of dissertations in the humanities and social sciences, I have guided students from concept development through to successful defense. As a Dissertation Coordiator in an interdisciplinary department, I also helped students understand the expectations of the academy at large and effectively respond to  feedback of external committee members.

Now, through one-on-one sessions on Zoom, I offer direct, concrete, personalized support –  to help you produce an effective Proposal/Prospectus, overcome common obstacles, handle Committee feedback and make revisions, and conduct a successful Defense.

I offer tried and true tips – from strategic note-taking to maintaining the flow – helping students produce creative and incisive work that made a valuable contribution to new knowledge.

I also effectively steer students through typical psychological hurdles – from writer’s block to the self-doubt that is almost inevitable at the start of a daunting task. 

Some students may benefit from relaxation techniques to loosen the bonds of crippling anxiety. As a certified Level II Yoga and Yoga Nidra instructor, I am able to draw on the techniques of guided meditation to integrate body and mind, intellect and passion. This optional offering might be just what you need to shift you from fear of the daunting task to curiosity and excitement about your project.

“Laura Grillo is one of my favorite professors and dissertation coaches of all time. Amazing mind, person, teacher!”
– Michelle Bitting, PhD, award-winning Poet, Los Angeles

Sessions that deliver Results:


For assistance with the development of the dissertation Proposal or Prospectus I provide three one-hour sessions on Zoom and feedback on three separate drafts of the paper/proposal, up to 15 pages in length. The cost is usually $200/per session.

At the end of these sessions you will have a Proposal/Prospecuts that will include:

(1) an Introductory Overview that identifies the driving problems or questions, and states a preliminary Thesis; (2) a statement of Approach or Methodology; (3) a Literature Review, which is not a mere annotated bibliography, but an identification of critical resources that will advance the project; (4) a Chapter Outline with a brief synopsis of the driving question or sub-thesis; (5) a preliminary Bibliography, sometimes organized by field or theme.


      “Loved, loved having Professor Grillo as an academic coach for my  dissertation prospectus.  She is extremely knowledgeable about prospectus writing and research development.   If you are just beginning the process of writing your prospectus or simply looking for support-guidance amid the writing process, she will be the best decision you will ever make!   Also, our one-on-ones and her encouraging emails to nudge me to get-it-done were a true delight, loved every second of it.  Plus, she’s so rad and a brilliant scholar, and I’m truly honored to have had her as a soundboard!”
– C.  Johnson, UC Berkeley, African American Literature and Culture




Valuable Writing Support and Constructive Editorial Feedback:

Students benefit from coaching all along the way, but might prefer to seek this support beyond the circle of Dissertation Committee members who will be evaluating the final result.

Constructive guidance and thoughtful editorial feedback can help improve coherence and enhance the strength of your work. I provide insightful suggestions to help develop your Proposal or Prospectus, on a section or chapter of a Dissertation under way, or even the review of an entire manuscript. I can also help you consider and respond effectively to feedback from Dissertation Committee members.

For Dissertation Writing support

Good thinking requires good writing. Good writing leads to better insights. Let me help you untangle your knots, unleash the full potential of your project, and make the process more rewarding

• In most cases, a hands-on, chapter-by-chapter approach serves best
– to pace progress and stay accountable to deadlines
– to gain clarity as the project is shifting and the research progresses
• Regular, periodic coaching sessions with deadlines structured to meet your needs.

The fee is $200 for every 1-hour Zoom meeting which includes my written feedback on a draft of up to 25 pages (double spaced) submitted in advance. 

If the Zoom session extends beyond 1.5 hrs, and we agree to continue beyond that point, I charge $100 for the second hour.

(Subsequent readings and written review of revisions of the same piece/chapter can be negotiated).

• In other cases, what’s needed is a reading of the entire dissertation manuscript
– for editorial feedback on organization and conceptual coherence
– for help with clarity of expression and style

The cost will vary depending on the degree of feedback required and page length. On average a careful line editing of a full manuscript  will cost between $1,00-$1,500, depending on length. 

The cost for a subsequent re-reading and written review of the revision is subject to negotiation.


Laura is a true mentor. … because of her warm guidance and firm resolve (that I can do this!), I am excited to be fruitfully working towards my goal. … Our sessions are safe spaces where I can voice budding ideas, research directions, and questions. Here Laura is a pro—she has guided me in refining and reframing these initial interests and research questions into an exciting, yet feasible, project.
– B. Purcell, Texas Christian University



Current Dissertation students hail from a variety of programs and universities: Berkeley, Cambridge, Princeton, Texas Christian University….

Wondering if I can help you too? Let’s talk!

I offer one free 45-minute telephone consultation about your project and editorial needs, and how my services may benefit you.   

• Please go to the “Contact” page to send me an email •


Early Career Mentor


I provide early career scholars with Coaching and Advice. I invite you to contact me to discuss how I may help you:

  • Review and feedback on Article drafts
  • Guidance and editing Grant applications
  • Feedback on CVs


Ile-Ife Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) – Nigeria

The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Nigeria, that provides skills and mentoring for African graduate students and young scholars.

Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) – http://www.ias-iin.com/scholars/laura-grillo/

Faculty Profile: https://www.ife-ias.com/faculty

Profile Article about the IAS Mentoring Initiative

“At the Mythological center of the World, a Unique Pedagogical Initiative Launches in Nigeria” co-authored with Samantha Lakin. The Huffington Post (August 3, 2017). https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/at-the-mythological-center-of-the-world-a-unique-pedagogical_us_5982df82e4b0396a95c874e4

As a Faculty Member in 2018 I taught the following workshops:

  • Technology and Research: hands-on demonstration of web-based tools and strategies for their use
  • Thesis Development: how to develop researchable questions that offer traction and create new knowledge

In 2019 I  developed the Keynote presentation for the Seminar on Ethnography