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Working with your Advisor

The advising relationship is, at its core, a communication relationship. Some advisors will be better than others about exploring ideas with you, sharing writing strategies and offering other forms of assistance as you research and write your dissertation. By using good communication skills yourself, you can help your advisor be the best advisor for you; someone who will allow you to complete your dissertation and flourish as a professional.

The Best Advisor Advice

  • Select your advisor thoughtfully
  • Take responsibility for creating a successful advising relationship
  • Learn to communicate effectively and professionally
  • Transform yourself into a proactive, capable, committed potential colleague!

Do your research!

  • Talk with other students
  • Take classes from potential advisors
  • Read their books
  • Interview them to find out:
  • How many advisees do they have?
  • How many students have they graduated? (Use the Dissertation and Thesis database to do an Advisor search)
  • Where do their students get jobs?

Keep in mind the following differences as you research your future dissertation advisor.

  • Expectations about Roles: consider gender, race and age. Do any of these factors impact how you view your advisor's role or how she might view your role as an advisee?
  • Expectations about Advising
  • Your dissertation is recreated from a model supplied by your advisor
  • You select a plan for your dissertation from a range of options that your advisor offers you
  • You drive the agenda and process of your dissertation research. Your advisor and you communicate almost equally.
  • Expectations about Dissertations?
  • A test to pass?
  • Culmination of scholarly work?

Set Up Ground rules

  • How often will you meet?
  • How will you keep track of decisions you make about your dissertation?

Cultivate a professional image by:

  • Keeping appointments
  • Give your advisor only polished work
  • Appreciate the advising relationship

Adapted from Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation, by Sonja K. Foss and William Waters (2007). 


About the Author: Amanda earned M.A., Russian History from Stanford University, B.A. Slavic Language & Literature from the University of Texas, Austin.