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Shouldn't My Dissertation Advisor Be Giving Me Advice?

Eight out of ten doctoral candidates working on their dissertation say that they are stuck with 'the advisor from hell'. The other two think their advisor is "very nice, BUT . . ."

Very few of the thousands of doctoral candidates I have talked with in almost 44 years have said they have a helpful, cooperative and effective advisor. Something is very wrong with that picture. Are all dissertation writers so stressed and overwhelmed that they cannot recognize good advisement when they encounter it?

Do advisors not understand their pivotal role in dissertation success? Or is some other factor at work in the almost universal perception of advisors as denizens of the underworld?

Advisor problems arise from three sources: First, doctoral programs do not adequately define the role of the dissertation advisor. Second, advisors are not motivated to help you. Third, doctoral candidates lack assertiveness in obtaining the services for which they pay. Let's look at each.

Doctoral programs lack standards for advisor role and performance:

Institutions have different criteria for choosing, training and evaluating dissertation advisors. Most commonly there is no standard at all, no special training, and no mechanism in place for evaluating performance. This lack of professional role definition and oversight sets the stage for disaster.

Your advisor is not motivated:

Sadly, many times a dissertation advisor often perceive this phase of his/her professional responsibility as a time-consuming distraction from teaching or their own research and writing. Having no specific training or guidelines for their role in nurturing the fledgling dissertation into existence, many advisors find it easier to let their advisee struggle alone.

You have the right to effective advisement:

Insist on it!

As a doctoral candidate you are a consumer. You are paying your university for courses and for advisement, with the ultimate goal of receiving your Ph.D. Your university makes a profit. You have a right to effective advisement. Your university has a responsibility to provide you with an advisor who will guide you towards your goal. Your advisor is doing a job, and is being paid.

Academia creates an atmosphere in which the above words are jolting.

Consumer? Money? Profit? Now is the time to create a new mindset about your pursuit of a doctorate, and about the responsibilities of the university and advisor to make the process as smooth as possible. See dealing with the 'advisor from hell' for helpful tips if you feel you are not being treated fairly!

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Dissertation Writing


Success! - How to deal with one of the biggest mistake made by doctoral candidates when working on a Proposal.
Why Can't I Get Started?
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Advisor Relations - Read about tips on dealing with your advisor and obtaining the right advice!
Shouldn't My Advisor Be Giving Me Advice?
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Damage Control - Learn how to take control of the dissertation, and what actions to take.
Dealing with The Advisor From Hell
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Defined - A very useful definition of a dissertation that outlines the entire project.
Dissertations are Scholarly Documents
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Strategies - Read about the most successful methods for making your project easier!
Diane Kennedy's Top Strategies for Writing
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Procrastination! - Avoid the reason behind failed projects!
Procrastination Will Doom the Project
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Tips - Read how other people overcame their writing problems!
Dissertation Writing Tips
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Free Help - Good advise on the best way to plan and execute your project.
Organization for Success
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  • I was able to write Chapter 1 because you did such a wonderful job on the Review of Literature. It just flows together. I appreciate the time and effort you spent helping me. Thanks so much. I will recommend you highly to my friends and fellow doctoral students. You are the best. Thanks so much

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