Sei sulla pagina 1di 7

Views&of&a n& Academic& Advisor:& Characteristics&of&Processes & that&Indicate&Dissertation&Research&is&Going&Well &

by#Jane#F.#Gilgun#

University#of#Minnesota,#Twin#Cities,#USA#

&

! !
!
!

!

!

Summary#

!

This!article!describes!characteristics!of!processes!that!indicate!dissertation!research!is!

going!well.!!Based!upon!work!I!had!done!with!about!60!PhD!candidates,!the!article!shows!

that!a!collaborative!relationship!between!advisors!and!students,!open!and!clear! communication,!engagement!in!problem @ solving!when!difficulties!arise,!student! commitment!to!excellence!in!scholarship,!and!students!consequently!becoming!experts!in! their!topic!areas,!the!methods!they!use,!and!their!own!findings!characterize!dissertation! research!that!goes!well.!These!qualities!also!are!associated!with!success!in!job!talks!when! newly!minted!PhDs!interview!for!faculty!positions.!Finally,!the!qualities!also!predict! scholarly!productivity!once!persons!with!PhDs!have!faculty!positions.!

!

About#the#Author #

!

Jane!F.!Gilgun,!Ph.D.,!LICSW,!is!a!professor,!School!of!Social!Work,!University!of!Minnesota,!

Twin!Cities,!USA.!She!has!been!a!professor!for!almost!28!years.!

Views&of&a n& Academic& Advisor:& Characteristics&of&Processes & that&Indicate&Dissertation&Research&is&Going&Well &

I#have#worked#with#about#60#PhD#students!as!ei ther!a!member!of!their!committees!or!as! an!advisor.!I!have!observed!that!when!dissertation!research!goes!well,!the!students!and!the! advisors!have!a!collaborative!relationship.!They!stay!in!touch,!have!clear!and!open! communication,!and,!when!difficulties!arise,!they!engage!in!problem @ solving.! !

! ! In!addition,!students!choose!topics!that!interest!them,!and!they!do!the!difficult!
!
!
In!addition,!students!choose!topics!that!interest!them,!and!they!do!the!difficult!
scholarly!work!involved.!They!become!experts!on!their!topics,!their!methods,!and!their!
own!findings.!They!do!well!in!job!talks!when!th ey!present!the!results!of!their!dissertation!
research!because!their!research!can!stand!up!to!the!scrutiny!that!is!routine!in!academic!life.!
These!qualities!also!are!associated!with!scholarly!productivity!once!persons!with!PhDs!
become!faculty!members. !
!
!
Stu dent!researchers!also!understand!that!advisors!typically!will!ask!them!to!revise!
drafts.!Sometimes!advisors!ask!for!several!revisions!before!they!say!the!dissertation!is!
ready!to!defend.!Excellent!institutions!hold!students!to!high!academic!standards.!
!
!
!
The!following!are!characteristics!associated!with!excellent!dissertation!research.!!

!

Topic#that#Interest # them #

!

Students!who!do!well!in!the!dissertation!research!process!have!many!characteristics! in!common.!A!primary!characteristic!is!to!choose!a!topic!that !interests!them.!!Dissertation! research,!and!research!of!any!kind,!typically!is!difficult.!Many!researchers!reach!a!point! where!they!want!to!quit!because!it!is!just!too!hard.!! !

!

What!keeps!researchers!going!is!the!purpose!of!the!research.!If!researchers!b elieve! that!the!outcome!of!the!research!is!important,!they!persist.!!The!best!possible!sign!of!future! success!is!students’!belief!that!their!research!will!make!a!difference!in!the!lives!of!others.! Economic!considerations!and!hope!for!an!academic!position!a re!important,!but!secondary! to!the!belief!in!the!significance!of!the!work. !

!

!

!

Proposals#

!

PhD!students!develop!proposals!for!their!research.!The!proposal!is!a!research!plan! that!includes!a!literature!review,!purpose!statement,!often!a!reflexivity!statement,!research! questions,!often!hypotheses,!a!methods!section,!a!data!analysis!plan,!ethical!considerations,! and!dissemination!plans.!Students!work!with!advisors!to!develop!proposals.!When!advisors! think!the!proposal!is!ready,!students!give!the!proposal!to!disse rtation!committee!members.!

!

The!advisor!and!dissertation!committee!members!make!the!decision!about!whether!the!

research!plan!is!ready!to!be!implemented.!

Students!often!underestimate!how!difficult!dissertation!research!is.!!Most!students! work!well!with!adv isors!and!craft!a!proposal!for!research!that!is!doable!within!a! reasonable!period!of!time.!What!is!reasonable!varies!by!discipline.!In!social!work,! “reasonable”!is!work!that!students!can!complete!in!one!year’s!time!from!the!beginning!of! data!collection!to!the!write @ up!of!findings.! !

Some!students!propose!projects!that!are!far!too!wide!in!scope!for!a!dissertation.!In! these!cases,!advisors!usually!share!their!concerns!with!students.!If!students!want!to! continue,!advisors!can!do!little!to!stop!them.!They!hope!students!can!do!the!work!they! propose!or!that!students!realize!early!in!data!collection!that!they!have!tried!to!do!too!much.! In!such!situations,!most!advisors!are!willing!to!give!students!the!go@ ahead!to!change!their! research!plans.!!!

Collaboration# with# Advisors#

When!PhD!students!do!their!dissertation!research,!it!is!wise!to!stay!in!touch!with! advisors!throughout!the!research!process,!from!the!writing!of!the!proposal!to!handing!in! the!final!draft.!Students!do!well!when!they!check!in!with!advisors!period ically,!let!advisors! know!what!they!are!doing,!what!they!are!learning,!and!what!issues!arise.!Such!students! also!are!open!to!advisors’!suggestions!and!incorporate!them!into!their!work.!Students!can! be!assured!that!advisors!want!them!to!do!well!and!to!go!on!to!successful!careers.! !

Advisors!rarely!pursue!their!students!in!terms!of!inquiring!what!is!going!on!with!the! research.!There!are!many!reasons!for!this,!but!primarily!advisors!want!to!respect!the! autonomy!of!PhD!students.!Sometimes!advisors!may!send!a!friendly!e@ mail!to!inquire!about! how!things!are!going.!It!is!the!rare!advisor!who!keeps!in!unilateral!touch!with!students.!I! for!one!assume!that!PhD!students!are!mature!adults!who!know!what!they!want!and!who! pursue!with!they!want!to!the!best!of!their!abilities.!I!assume!also!that!they!know!that!I!will! respond!to!requests!they!make!of!me.!In!my!experience,!this!is!typical!of!dissertation! advisors.!! !

Clear#and#Open#Communication #

An!advisors’!job!is!to!advise.!To!advise!means!to!give!counsel,!to!give!opinion s,!and! to!provide!information!and!recommendations!that!are!worth!following.!When!students! work!with!advisors,!they!are!engaged!in!mutual,!reciprocal!relationships.!Overall,!the! advisors’!job!is!to!educate!and!guide!students!about!research!processes!and!to! help! students!abide!by!academic!standards.!Advisors!offer!advice!on!such!matters!as!which! research!and!theories!might!be!important,!what!methods!appear!to!be!relevant,!and! procedures!of!analysis,!interpretation,!dissemination,!and!ethical!conduct!of!research.!! Everything!is!negotiable!except!academic!and!ethical!standards.!! !

Students!immerse!themselves!in!these!standards!throughout!their!academic! careers.!Some!students!are!able!to!do!excellent!academic!work!with!little!guidance.!I!am! amazed!and!delighted! when!students!do!excellent!work,!which!is!characterized!by! thoroughness,!clarity,!organizational!ability,!documentation!of!general!statements,!unity! among!parts!of!the!research,!trustworthiness!in!data!collection,!analysis,!and! interpretation,!and!originality!(no!plagiarism),!among!other!qualities.!!Graduate!schools! should!expel!students!who!turn!in!work!that!is!not!their!own.!Many!do.!!!

There!is!no!excuse!for!plagiarism,!which!is!theft!of!the!work!of!others.!!Several!years! ago,!a!student!turned!in!a!firs t!draft!of!a!proposal!that!contained!in!its!entirety!a!paper!I!had! written.!!I!had!given!the!paper!to!him!in!draft!form!before!it!was!published.!When!I!told!him! I!had!written!that!paper,!he!said,!“I!forgot.”!There!is!no!excuse!for!such!intellectual!thievery.! None. !

Sometimes!advisors!make!suggestions!that!students!do!not!want!to!follow.!Students! should!tell!their!advisors!right!away!or!within!a!short!period!of!time!about!their! reservations.!Students!in!these!situations!do!well!when!they!ask!advisors!for!more! information!and!clarification.!Students!then!explain!to!advisors!what!their!points!of!view! are.!With!such!open!and!reciprocal!conversations,!students!and!advisors!come!to! agreement.!If!students!believe!that!advisors!are!not!understanding!them,!say!that:!“I!don’t! feel!you!are!understanding!what!I!am!saying.” !

Or,!even!better,!students!could!reflect!upon!how!they!communicated!and!whether! they!communicated!what!they!want!clearly!to!advisors.!If!they!have!been!unclear,!this!is! understandable!because!student s!typically!are!not!seasoned!researchers.!Students!benefit! from!conversations!with!advisors!who!are!willing!to!listen!carefully!to!the!students’!ideas! and!who!seek!as!much!clarity!as!possible!about!what!students!want.!!

Sometimes!advisors!think!they!understand!what!students!want!to!do,!but!they!don’t.! Since!advisors!don’t!realize!that!they!don’t!understand,!it’s!up!to!students!to!let!the! advisors!know.!It!is!the!rare!advisor!who!is!irritated!about!this.!On!the!contrary,!because! advisors!want!to!be!helpful, !they!want!to!understand!students’!points!of!view. !

Most!of!the!time,!the!entire!research!process!is!fairly!smooth,!even!when!students! encounter!difficulties.!This!is!because!students!and!advisors!stay!in!close!contact!and!have! clear!communication.!When!students!and!advisors!don’t!stay!in!close!contact!and!do!not! communicate!well,!students!may!still!do!an!excellent!job.!! !

Sometimes,!however,!not!staying!in!contact!and!communicating!about!the!research! can!cause!serious!problems.!!I!have!been!part!of!committees!where!advisors!have!made! suggestions!about!data!analysis,!and!the!students!go!along!with!the!suggestions.!At!the!end! of!data!collection!and!even!well!into!data!analysis,!the!students!tell!the!advisors!they!never! wanted!to!do!that!kind!of!analysis.!Th e!advisors!are!shocked,!having!no!idea!that!this!was! the!case.!Not!seeking!clarification!from!advisors!can!result!in!situations!like!these.!Such! situations!are!nightmares!for!students!and!for!advisors.!

Collaboration# and#ProblemISolving# #

A!way! to! head!off!such!nightmares!is!for!students!to!collaborate!with!advisors!in! data!collection!and!data!analysis.!In!both!qualitative!and!quantitative!research,!students! can!assume!that!analysis!is!a!collaborative!process.!!Advisors!want!information!on!how! data!collection!and!analysis!are!going.!They!want!this!in!order!to!be!helpful!and!to!head!off! any!problems!before!the!problems!get!difficult!to!solve.!!Even!if!everything!is!going! smoothly,!advisors!want!to!know!the!good!news.!If!students!run!into!problems,!it!is!to! students’!advantage!to!let!advisors!know.!Advisors!may!be!able!to!help!students!work!out! alternative!actions. !

When!students!have!issues!with!any!part!of!the!dissertation!process,!advisors!want! to!know.!Advisors!want!to!be!helpful.!!They!want!to!facilitate!student!work.!They!want! students!to!succeed.!Institutions!of!higher!education!typically!invest!a!great!deal!of!time,! energy,!and!money!into!PhD!students.!Advisors!advise!because!they!want!a!part!in!bringing! students!along!to!the!point!where!students!become!excellent!scholars!themselves.!Most! advisors!do!all!they!can!to!facilitate!student!work.! !

Difficulty!in!recruitment!is!a!common!issue.!There!are!many!creative!solutions!to! this.!Advisors!can!provide!emotional!support!when!students!are!frustrated!with! recruitment.!They!may!also!know!other!possible!referral!sources.!Over!the!years,!I!have! been!able!to!make!suggestions!to!students!about!social!service!agencies!who!are!willing!to! be!helpful!in!recruitment!of!participants.!So!have!my!colleagues.!Students!who!do!well!in! the!dissertation!process!see!advisors!as!resources. !

It!is!common!in!qualitative!work!for!student!researchers!to!invite!other!people!to! collaborate!with!them!in!data!analysis!and!interpretation.!!This!is!traditional!in!the!Chicago! School!of!Sociology,!for!example.!Some!advisors!are!willing!to!do!some!of!this!analysis!with! students.!!This!is!an!opportunity!for!students!to!work!alongside!of!seasoned!researchers.!! Some!long @ term!professors!who!teach!qualitative!research!say!this!is!the!only!way!for! students!to!learn.!Leonard!Schatzman,!who!co@ developed!grounded!theory,!had!that!view,! as!the!interview!cited!below!shows. !

Students#Become#Expert s— or#Should #

When!students!do!dissertation!research,!advisors!and!committee!members!expect! them!to!become! experts!on!the!research!related!to!their!topics,!on!the!methods!they!use!to! research!their!topics,!and!on!their!own!research!findings.!This!means!many!hours!of!course! work,!independent!study,!and!discussions!with!knowledgeable!others!on!the!topic!and!on! methods.!! !

When!students!begin!their!research,!the!topic!and!the!methods!may!be!unfamiliar.!

When!they!complete!their!dissertations,!they!have!read,!grappled!with,!and!understood!not!

only!the!topic!and!their!own!research,!but!also!the!methods.!They!often!know!more!than!

advisors!and!committee!members!about!some!of!these!issues.!

Advisors!are!unsympathetic!when!PhD!candidates!state!as!they!hand!in!their! dissertations!for!advisors’!evaluation!that!they!were!unfamiliar!with!the!methods.!Yes,!at! the!beginning!of !dissertation!research!projects,!students!are!unfamiliar!with!a!lot!of!things,! including!the!research!methods!they!choose!to!use.!At!the!end!of!the!process,!they!should! be!experts. !

Regulate# Rage#

Sometimes!advisors!tell!students!things!they!do!not!want!t o!hear.!I!once!had!a!PhD!

student!whose!proposal!called!for!a!sample!of!600.!!After!much!effort!and!enlistment!of!the!

help!of!other!referral!sources,!the!student!still!was!not!able!to!recruit!600!participants.!!She!

ended!up!with!a!sample!size!of!140.!She!wa nted!to!run!a!regression!with!30!independent! variables!and!one!dependent!variable.!I!told!her!that!he!can!have!one!independent!variable!

for!every!20!cases.!She!had!forgotten!this.!!

The!student!was!furious!at!me.!!Certainly!the!student!had!reasons!to!be!upset,!but! not!at!me.!The!issue!was!one!related!to!the!mathematics!and!assumptions!of!statistical! procedures@@ and!difficulties!with!recruitment. !

I’ve!had!other!students!go!into!a!rage!when!I!tell!them!they!have!to!come!up!with!a! theory!when!they!do!ground ed!theory!analysis!with!case!studies.!These!are!students!who! did!data!analysis!without!consulting!me!and!handed!me!a!completed!dissertation.!These! students!did!not!understand!grounded!theory!nor!did!they!understand!that!single!or! multiple!case!study!analysis!require!careful!description!of!the!case!or!cases,!identification! of!core!concepts!and!processes,!and!then!comparison!of!these!core!concepts!and!processes! with!existing!research!and!theory.!This!is!part!of!transparency!in!research!processes,!a!core! part! of!academic!standards. !

In!their!proposals,!the!students!had!discussed!these!procedures,!but!when!it!was! time!to!apply!them,!the!students!did!not!know!how!to!do!this,!nor!did!they!realize!that!they! did!not!understand.!From!my!point!of!view,!this!is!sad.!I t’s!sad!because!I!want!students!to! be!good!scholars!and!to!understand!that!research!involves!collaboration.!They!did!their! entire!analyses!on!their!own,!without!consulting!me.! !

Doing#Well#in#Job#Talks #

Newly!minded!PhDs!typically!seek!academic!positions! that!involve!job!talks.!! Institutions!who!are!looking!for!new!faculty!members!typically!want!applicants!to!talk! about!their!dissertation!research.!They!are!looking!for!excellence!in!scholarship.!Doing! excellent!work!involves!mastery!of!a!field!of!knowledge,!mastery!of!research!methods,!and! mastery!of!data!collection,!analysis,!interpretation,!presentation,!and!dissemination.!!In! addition,!students!have!to!be!able!to!articulate!all!of!these!processes!and!respond!to! questions!in!ways!that!show!their!mastery!of!the!material. !

This!kind!of!excellence!is!possible!through!collaboration!with!advisors!and!with!

other!committee!members.!!In!fact,!academic!work!that!college!and!university!researchers!

do!typically!is!collaborative,!as,!for!example,!in!multiple!authored!articles!and!books.!Even! when!academic!work!is!sole@ authored,!the!authors!have!asked!knowledgeable!others!to! review!their!work!in!order!to!ensure!that!they!have!not!overlooked!anything.!A!definition! of!wisdom!is!openness!to!the!feedback!of!others.!

!

!

letters!of!recommendations!from!advisors.!It!is!far!more!difficult!for!advisors!to!

recommend!students!for!academic!positions!when!students!work!does!not!meet!academic!

Students!who!do!well!in!the!processes!of!dissertation!research!also!receive!strong!

standards.!!

Discussion#

The!advising!process!is!an!apprenticeship.!Students!apprentice!themselves!to! advisors!whose!work!they!admire!and!want!to!emulate.!The!job!of!advisors!is!guide!student! researchers!throughout!the!many!phases!of!research!and!to!hold!students!to!high!academic! standards.!The!job!of!students!is!to!do!excellent!research.!Staying!in!touch!with!advisors,! seeking!their!counsel,!seeking!clarification!of!their!consul,!collaborating!with!them!in!data! analysis!and!interpretation,!and!students!setting!high! standards!for!themselves!lead!to! success!in!dissertation!research,!success!on!the!job!market,!and!success!as!academics! themselves.!Students!like!these!earn!excellent!recommendations.!

References #

Bryant,!Anthony!&! Kathy!Charmaz! (2007).! The!Sage!handbook!of !grounded!theory. ! Thousand!Oaks,!CA:!Sage. !

Charmaz,!Kathy!(2006).! Constructing!grounded!theory:!A!practical!guide!through!qualitative! analysis. !Thousand!Oaks,!CA:!Sage. !

Gilgun,!Jane!F.!(1993).!An!interview!with!Leonard!Schatzman.!! Qualitative!Family!Research,! 7!(1!&!2).! http://www.scribd.com/doc/25377402/An @ Interview@ with @ Leonard@ Schatzman . !

Gilgun,!Jane!F.!(2004).!!Guidelines!for!evaluating!dissertations!based!on!qual itative! methods.! http://www.scribd.com/doc/20634867/Guidelines@ for@ Evaluating @ Dissertations@ Based @ on @ Qualitative @ Methods . !

Gilgun,!Jane !F.!(2011).!Theory!and!case!study!research.!! http://www.scribd.com/doc/48231895/Theory@ and@ Case@ Study@ Research. !