- Availability and accessibility of the advisor
- Timeliness and quality of the feedback
- His/her expectations—are they realistic?
- The working atmosphere in the lab
- Management style—micro or macro
- Facilitation skills during defense hearings
- Average time his/her advisees take to finish
- Let your advisor/committee member know that you
value his or her time. Get to your scheduled meetings
on time. Don’t sweat it if your advisor/committee
member is late.
- Be prepared with an agenda for your regularly
scheduled meetings-- prepare questions ahead of time.
- Call and cancel if you will not be able to make
your scheduled meeting.
- Send a follow-up email confirming any items and
resolutions that were discussed during the meeting.
- Prepare a coversheet with an outline of your document
indicating the type of feedback you are looking for.
- Don’t get frustrated if they ask for another
copy of the latest draft of your document even if
you haven’t made any changes since you gave
it to them last week.
- Always bring a hard copy of the chapter to be
discussed with you.
- Takes notes at all meetings; you won’t remember
everything once you leave the office.
The relationship between you, your advisor and committee
members varies by the amount of direction, personal
interaction, and psychological support. In addition,
the type of criticism given and the frequency of interaction
will depend on the type of relationship you and your
advisor has established. It is quite possible that
each committee member could have different expectations
It is your responsibility to find out what
level of participation each member of the committee
is willing to commit to. I know of a student who directly
asked each committee member “what do you need
to see in this dissertation for you to sign-off on
it?” By asking ahead of time, she was able to
address each member’s concerns with the help
of her advisor.
The best academic advisor does not have the time
to hold your hand throughout your academic career.
The academic advisor’s time is limited because,
after all, he or she is a professor first and is getting
paid to teach courses, advise graduate students, supervise
graduate research, write books or journal articles,
and serve on campus- and university-wide committees.
Moreover, your advisor went through the same process
without much assistance from his/her advisor when he/she
attended graduate school. Therefore, the tradition
of completing a thesis or dissertation is a lonely
process and an unsympathetic advisor does not want
to cheat you out of having the same experience he/she
suffered through years ago. Hence, your academic advisor’s
main commitment is to supervise your research project.
He/she will not be your friend, therapist, financial
aid counselor, or marital advisor.
Your advisor is the coordinator of your thesis or
dissertation project. While the major role of your
advisor is to share his or her expertise with you to
help you develop your ideas, your advisor is also supposed
to advocate on your behalf as well. Should your committee
members give you conflicting advice you should bring
this to your advisor’s attention.
Resolving conflicts among committee members is part
of your advisor’s responsibilities. After you
resolve the issue with your advisor, ask if she/he
is going to be responsible for communicating the solution
to the other committee members. If she/he suggests
that you handle that issue it might be prudent to send
your advisor an email confirming the agreed upon resolution.
You might consider copying the other committee members
with this confirmation.
If you and your advisor disagree you might consider
writing a more persuasive argument addressing his concerns.
Arguing with your advisor is not time well spent. If
you spent the time choosing a well-qualified expert,
an active supporter and head cheerleader, these disagreements
should be minor and short-lived. You need him/her---Your
advisor will be writing recommendations for you well
after you have left the university.
If you are having problems getting timely written
or oral feedback from your advisor there are many things
that you can do to move this process along. Your advisor
and committee members are busy people. Consequently
you must make the best use of their time. First, if
you cannot get feedback from your advisor, try another
committee member to keep things moving along.
Second, when you submit your thesis or dissertation
chapter/s for review you should provide some guidance
on how you want your advisor/committee member to read
your document. Sometimes you might just be looking
for answers as to whether or not your methodology or
reasoning is logical and going in the right direction.
If you want this type of feedback your advisor might
not have to read as closely as he might think if you
do not provide any instructions. It would be a good
idea to provide an outline of your chapter so that
your advisor can get a good overview of what the chapter
is about and where it fits into your thesis or dissertation.
Without instructions your advisor is likely to place
your document in a pile of “must-read” items.
Leave the grammar and editing to an editor; your advisor
will give the final grammar edits on your final draft.
Email Question of the Month:
About the Author: As a single mother, professor
Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters' degrees
and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done
Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive
resource tool on CD--TADA! Thesis and Accomplished. To learn
more and sign up for her FREE tips and teleclasses, contact us at
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Selecting and Managing Your Advisor and Committee
Email Q & A of the Month
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Understanding the Unwritten Rules of Graduate