Becoming a victim of the Stockholm syndrome should not be the only way to get a degree. Count the cost of a bad advisor. They may have lived in undesirable places. They may have lost wages because they were geographically tied to the degree-granting university and unable to seek the best paying job elsewhere. They have lost years of life when they could have been doing something more enjoyable and less costly in time and money, which is why graduate students may become doormats for bad advisors.
They are afraid their entire investment will be lost if they protest their treatment. If your advisor has any one of the nine above-described characteristics, or others that are impeding your forward progress, you need to seek help. It only takes one bad behavior on the part of an advisor to make your graduate experience a nightmare. This Website and several others in the same network specialize in assisting students from the time they choose a research topic to the end of the oral defense.
The key to surviving a bad advisor, or later, a bad boss, is to develop the skills to manage upward. Graduate school is professional school, and students should act like the professionals they hope to be from the first day they set foot in the department.
That means dressing well, keeping an appropriate social distance from members of the faculty, and keeping the majority of their personal lives to themselves. Students should choose an advisor as carefully as choosing a partner in life. The student should interview graduate students a year or two ahead in the program, or better, some who have graduated who had the same prospective advisor.
Those who are still in the department may not want to say anything negative about their advisor because their own degrees might be threatened if negative remarks got back to their advisor. Some departments assign an advisor in an effort to level the work load, and the student has no choice. The bad advisors get the same number of students as everyone else, and they can hide in the numbers.
Before making a choice students should go to the library and find the last two or three theses or dissertations a prospective advisor has chaired and look at the format, the depth of the statistical analysis, the length of the review of literature, and the intensity of the detail. This should be done by every graduate student.
Advisors tend to repeat themselves student after student. If a student has an advisor with any one of the bad behaviors listed previously, or another behavior that is delaying forward progress, that student should seek help immediately. The Website you are on is part of a network of Websites designed to help graduate students and others with their writing projects, whether they have a bad advisor or not. Keep an advisor informed constantly. Send him or her e-mails on a regular basis, and keep it up the entire time the thesis or dissertation is in process.
Advisors like to know students are working hard and should be impressed with your enthusiasm and dedication, real or not. When a deadline approaches, remind the advisor 4 weeks in advance, and again 2 weeks before the deadline occurs. Put a box somewhere at home and keep every scrap of paper pertaining to your graduate degree program. In particular, keep a CD copy or a hard copy of every corrected manuscript the advisor hands back.
Keep all e-mails from the advisor. These records are for the graduate dean, if needed. Keep track of how many weeks or months of work have gone into the proposal to do research, and the thesis or dissertation as a whole.
The average thesis project beginning to end should not take more than one semester. The average dissertation should not take more than two semesters. If your advisor assigns tasks that are outside the thesis or dissertation process, or are personal in nature, refuse politely.
Students pay semester hours to work on their graduate degrees, and nothing else. If your advisor fails to acquaint you with a the thesis or dissertation process, including deadlines; b the need for approval for use of human subjects and what committee makes those recommendations; c graduate school editorial requirements; or d any other organizational requirements that must be met before graduating, you should track down all the information.
Then put it all in an e-mail to your advisor asking for confirmation so it is on the record. A reasonable amount of time for an advisor to hand back work is 2 weeks. When the draft does come back, if it has been more than 2 weeks, send an e-mail to note the number of days it has taken to return the work.
If your advisor riddles your work with hundreds of corrections, hire an editor to help. Never, ever, tell an advisor that an editor has been hired. Human nature will cause the advisor to find fault with the editor to prove his or her superiority. Instead, send the advisor a series of e-mails noting how much hard work you are doing, mention the major changes in the document, and note approaching deadlines.
Note that the finest editor in the world cannot stop an advisor from making changes, but an editor can improve the professionalism and correctness of your work.
If your advisor only reads a few pages, then tells you to continue through the rest of the draft with similar corrections, send it back and tell the advisor the directions were not clear and to please clarify what changes should be made in the rest of the manuscript. It does no good to be a doormat and allow an advisor to behave badly. If your e-mail is met with further comments about following his or her directions, or there is a long delay with no word from the advisor, call and make an appointment, then present all the pages that had no corrections on them and ask how you can improve them.
At this point you may need to bring a tape recorder to your meetings with your advisor. If you reach the point where you are certain your advisor is not acting in your best interests, gather all your evidence together and go see the editor or an assistant dean of the graduate school.
In writing, request a change of advisor. In all probability, your request will be denied, but you will have activated the chain of command. I remember first encountering the Undergraduate Dissertation Handbook, feeling my heart sink at how long the massive file took to download, and began to think about possible but in hindsight, wildly over-ambitious topics.
Here's what I've learned since, and wish I'd known back then…. If you don't feel like they're giving you the right advice, request to swap to someone else — providing it's early on and your reason is valid, your department shouldn't have a problem with it.
In my experience, it doesn't matter too much whether they're an expert on your topic. What counts is whether they're approachable, reliable, reassuring, give detailed feedback and don't mind the odd panicked email. They are your lifeline and your best chance of success. So prepare for looks of confusion and disappointment. People anticipate grandeur in history dissertation topics — war, genocide, the formation of modern society. They don't think much of researching an obscure piece of s disability legislation.
But they're not the ones marking it. You'll end up paranoid — or they will. Choose your adviser wisely. Second, you want a thesis or dissertation adviser who pays attention—to the requirements for the degree, to deadlines, and to you. Select a person who understands the process, communicates expectations clearly, and is fair but demanding. Finally, your adviser should have some experience, which means you might not want to select someone new to campus. Faculty members who have served as readers on other dissertation committees will likely be good advisers.
Choose your supervisory committee wisely. Dissertation supervisory committees generally include three or four additional faculty members. Again, consider people with reputations for graduating students and those who, for the most part, work well with their colleagues. So how do you identify these folks? Get to know your professors. Attend research colloquia to understand their areas of research. Take classes and engage your professors in conversations.
Talk to advanced graduate students.
Writing a dissertation can be one of the hardest tasks a university student has to accomplish – but it will come to an end. Photograph: Randy Faris/Corbis The sun .
An advisor who fails to apprise a student of 1) the ground rules of the department or graduate school, or 2) the ground rules of their personal process for moving a student through research and writing a thesis or dissertation.
In the sticky, sweltering heat of late summer, I wrote a little post called “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dissertation,” which translated my writing struggles into a therapeutic list of writing tips. Dissertation writing is the most difficult challenge we observe in our academic career. Therefore writers need to be very hardworking and persistent at this stage.
Advice for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation Research on graduate students' experiences with writing a thesis or dissertation suggests many students aren’t always . Free dissertation writing and formatting tips. We also offer dissertation editing, formatting, and consultation services. paydayloanslexington.gq