- Key predictor of supervisor's ability to guide a postgraduate to completion is a good record of having done so. Yep, that makes sense. This can be deceptive if other profs have been mostly carrying the load, but still the long-term record is a good indicator.
- You choose the supervisor. Do not let the institution overrule your choice. Is this really a problem? Sure, you get assigned someone in the first year, but you can change. I guess this might be a problem in the hard sciences where you get committed to a lab, but in poli sci? Not an issue.
- Stars are attractive but may be distant. Pick a well-regarded supervisor who does not spend too much time away. This entry was kind of confusing since you want your supervisor to be networked via meetings and to introduce you to people at such meetings. Plus later on, these will be good opportunities to catch up with one's adviser as students frequently leave town.
- Bureaucratic immunity is vital. Look for a supervisor who will protect you from ‘the system’. In principle, cool. In reality? Professors are absent-minded not just in stereotypes but in reality. Expecting them to know the ins and outs of the bureaucracy is perhaps a bridge too far. Yes, you want them to support you and have your back in whatever difficulties you encounter, but don't expect them to wage wars against the bureaucracy for you. They have day jobs that involve other stuff and limited expertise.
- Byline bandits abound. Study a potential supervisor’s work. Good point--see if the prof is a leech who builds career by exploiting students or is a mentor who helps students out.
- Be wary of co-supervisors. This seems a bit overwrought but the basic idea that a dissertation committee contains many conflicting points of view is on target--you need to adjudicate between different criticisms/suggestions but do not always follow your main supervisor. The other folks on the diss committee may be right and your adviser may be wrong. Developing your own work means learning how to listen to conflicting points of view. This will continue throughout the career as reviewer #1 and reviewer #2 will rarely be on the same frequency.
- A supervisor who is active in the area of your doctorate can help to turbocharge your work. Certainly, but this can be rare as your interests may diverge from anyone's specialty, plus it is better to have a committed, interested generalist than a disinterested specialist.
- A candidature that involves teaching can help to get a career off the ground. Your mileage will vary quite a lot here--I think this might be very field/country specific. "it is teaching that will get them their first post (and probably their second and third)." Really? I do think that students should TA for their advisors and for other folks to learn what to do and what not to do, to have syllabi/notes that one can
plagiarizebuild from. But some really good supervisors can suck at teaching at the undergrad level, and some great teachers are lousy researchers/advisers.
- Weekly supervisory meetings are the best pattern. Um, hard science? I never have had weekly meetings with my Phd students. The timetable is set by progress--if we have something to talk about--a draft of a proposal, a completed chapter, a paper that needs feedback before submission, a conference coming up, job talks in the near future--then we meet formally. Informal conversations view phone, skype, email, even facebook happen all the time, but no need to meet in my office (which can be inconvenient for both of us) unless there is something to talk about.
- Invest your trust only in decent and reliable people who will repay it, not betray it. Indeed.
Monday, July 15, 2013
Advising About Advising
Interesting piece at Inside Higher Ed on what a PhD adviser will never tell you. Here is my early morning take (bold is in the original post). I am not sure that the title really works, but there is some good stuff to chew over.