orgtheory.net

do not be an awful dissertation advisor

I realized yesterday that in a relatively short time span (2010-2020), I have hooded more PhDs than many faculty at major research oriented doctoral programs. Why? I am not magic and I don’t spend all my waking hours mentoring people. Yet, I hood and I place, My students have gotten jobs in doctoral programs, teaching programs, and the private sector.

Here are some tips:

  1. Actually take students. No need to take all folks who ask, but actually do your share. My view is that a full professor at an R1 program should have at least one or two people dissertators at a time, more if you are in a lab science. Many faculty shirk.
  2. Create a system for time management. Some folks have a strong scheduling system. Personally, I prefer a flexible drop in system, so I can deal with problems sooner than later.
  3. Be responsive. Seriously. One of my most bitter experiences at Chicago sociology was faculty who went silent, skipped meetings, and refused to talk to me… after they agreed to help with the dissertation. I’m stubborn and got my degree despite that, but AWOL faculty can be fatal.
  4. Be reasonable in expectations. Dissertations do not pass the bar if they get published in your discipline’s flagship journal. They pass if they show mastery of an area and expand knowledge. Big difference.
  5. Be mellow and cool. No crying in office hours and no yelling. Just be calm and tell people what needs to fixed in order to improve.
  6. Tell most students to do short dissertations focusing on incremental research. A PhD means you know a field and contribute, but that can be done in short order. Three papers and you are done.
  7. Short dissertations focusing on incremental research. A PhD means you know a field and contribute, but that can be done in short order. Three papers and you are done.
  8. Finally, do all paper work in a timely manner without complaint. Letters of recommendation, yearly evaluations, foreign student forms – whatever. Smile and just quietly say “yes” and do it.

Editorial: All the things I just wrote are simple and common sense, yet so many faculty just bungle them. No one’s perfect, but there is no excuse to going AWOL on students, or not doing rec letters and so forth. It’s your job. Do it or quit.

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Written by fabiorojas

May 21, 2020 at 1:41 pm

Posted in uncategorized

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