With friends like these…

Your research advisor is your best friend throughout the dissertation process. He guides your work, provides encouragement, and shepherds your study through the dissertation committee. He is there to answer your questions and to ensure your progress. It is your advisor’s job to see to it that you graduate!

Your working relationship with your research advisor and other members of your dissertation committee dramatically impacts your momentum and your performance. It is wise to assess what is working well and what needs improvement in these working relationships.

So, what if your best friend isn’t so friendly? If there is tension in your relationship with your advisor, it’s likely the result of one of these four types of issues:

  • Lack of availability. Your advisor is simply not available for talk when you need to. Maybe he does not return emails. Perhaps he does, just not as quickly as you would like.
  • Micromanagement. You feel that your advisor is provides too much “help.” He goes beyond insisting on quality and academic rigor. You do not feel ownership over your study.
  • Lack of support. You may have a sense that your advisor is unhappy with your performance. The sense is palpable to you, and you feel that it casts a pall over your relationship.
  • Divergent goals. You and your advisor may have different goals for your research. Perhaps he wants to emphasize or give priority to different aspects than you.

You will need to talk with your advisor, but it’s always good to go into any important meeting prepared. Explain the situation to a friend or colleague to get their opinion. I have helped many of my coaching clients to navigate their way through rocky relationships with their dissertation chairs and safely reach the shores of Doctoria. When you talk with your advisor, a good way to begin is to ask him for a candid appraisal of your work and your progress. Don’t to be defensive about his feedback. Your goal is to get a clear understanding about how your advisor assesses your collaboration. How you should proceed to mend the relationship depends greatly on what you learn from this discussion.

Completing your dissertation requires time, effort, persistence, and organization. If you need help along the way, let me know. Let’s get your dissertation done!

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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