Directing Theses and Dissertations, CTE Brownbag Lunch March 10, 2008.

Led by: Marsha Haufler and Mary Lee Hummert


Variation in how professors mentor dissertation students in large part due to differing research practices among disciplines


Factors to consider:

-      Many students have jobs while they do their dissertation because they need to support themselves

-      Some students are overseas or away from campus during dissertation process

-      Often students are writing dissertation in their second language


Idea dissertation-writer:

One who is "READY"

-      -prepared in the field

-      -genuine commitment to the field

-      -not afraid of hard work

-      -not afraid of low living standards

-      -self-starters

-      -can identify potential grant sources

-      -can function in unfamiliar research environments

-      -has good support system of family and friends

-      -in good physical and emotional health

-      -function as professionals before dissertation




-      -think, how much are you going to have to bail them out?

-      -pick a good committee so you are not alone in supporting the student.

-      -know and use resources on campus: CAPS, Applied English Center



Defining and directing a dissertation topic:

-      Significant and feasible

-      Your job is to help students be realistic about what they can do

-      Establish realistic completion schedule

-      Determine publication venue and authorship early in the process (help students see the "big picture" and the product right from the start)

-      Work with deadlines from the Graduate Studies Dept.


General advice:

-      Encourage students to finish PhD before they leave campus

-      Students need to do the research themselves ("let go!"); this is their last step before becoming an independent scholar

-      Don't leave it up to the committee to be the "bad guys"; prepare your student well.

-      Don't let student go into comps unless they are ready

-      Facilitating group meetings with can minimize competition among students, create professional camaraderie, complement or substitute for individual weekly meetings one-on-one, let students' peers help critique ideas and methods

-      De-mystify the dissertation by giving examples of other graduate work

-      Create opportunities for student to do the kind of writing and thinking he/she will need to do for the dissertation before the dissertation

-      Co-author early to establish collegial repor

-      Don't be afraid to tell students: "it's a PhD, you should figure this portion out yourself!"

-      Make your expectations explicit