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When the Advisor Is Not Enough

Getting the Most Out of Your Doctorate

ISBN: 978-1-78769-908-3, eISBN: 978-1-78769-905-2

Publication date: 24 April 2019


The “fit” between supervisor and student is difficult to predict but is essential to success in graduate school. Many students will experience disagreements or disappointment in their supervisory relationship at some point, but these issues are rarely discussed openly before starting a program. As a graduate student, you may find that your interests diverge from your advisor’s expertise, your advisor may leave for another institution, or perhaps you are interested in a nonacademic job (gasp) and your advisor can no longer “productively” support you. The good news is that you are not an island! There are several other individuals and groups that can support your graduate school endeavors if the advisor − advisee relationship does not work as planned. In this chapter, we outline several potential problems but also provide steps you can take to address these challenges and secure other sources of support.

This chapter offers practical steps to guide you through the process of determining if support from another faculty member or other advocate is necessary, and how to garner support from other students and friends. Concrete advice and considerations for meeting with your advisor or committee members to discuss the areas that need further guidance and develop a set expectations and pinpoint areas for improvement are provided. A discussion on additional steps if the meeting fails to alter progress is also included in the chapter, including how to navigate changing advisors or bring on additional co-advisors. This narrative is discussed through the lens of the American University system; however, the steps included in this chapter could be readily applied to a wide range of potential challenges that can exist anywhere. These are problems that may require modifications to supervision, including changing research topics or methodology, differences in expectations and personality traits, and managing projects when supervisors change institutions.



McKeown, J.M. and Strackeljahn, A.M. (2019), "When the Advisor Is Not Enough", Dollinger, M. (Ed.) Getting the Most Out of Your Doctorate (Surviving and Thriving in Academia), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 35-44.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Jessica M. McKeown and Andi M. Strackeljahn