Advising Resources for Students

Working with a research adviser is an integral part of all doctoral training. While at some institutions independent research may account for a small portion of undergraduate work, the majority of undergraduate education is centered on coursework that allows students to gain knowledge from many different faculty. Doctoral education is different. It does include coursework, but it is primarily centered on working under the direction of an adviser to create new knowledge in the chosen field. This relationship will be different from the academic relationships common during undergraduate studies.

Depending on a student's department and program, their advising structure can also look quite different. For example the number of dissertation advisers of record can range from one to four, and the timing of when those advisers are selected and assigned can range from pre-to-post generals. The Office of the Dean of the Graduate School developed the content here to help you navigate the doctoral advising structure and advising relationship and get the most out of this unique academic experience.

Download the Advising Guide (PDF)

Advising Requirements

We encourage you to review the Graduate School’s Ph.D. Advising Requirements, which outlines full details of expectations across disciplines.

Each student is responsible for identifying a research topic and securing an adviser. This means students will need to meet with faculty and discuss topics in order to find an appropriate adviser. Faculty within departments, including and especially Directors of Graduate Studies, make every effort to assist students with securing an adviser, provided students are otherwise making satisfactory degree progress. Departments also help facilitate this process through various activities that allow students to explore research topics, including lab rotations, faculty meetings, and proseminars.

Work with Your Adviser

The relationship between adviser and advisee is central to the experience of students in research-based graduate study. However, all adviser/advisee relationships are different. There is an entire spectrum of what your relationship can look like. Some advisers and advisees are in constant contact and collaborate on many ideas, while others have a relationship where the advisee works more independently. All of these variations are fine, provided both parties are contributing and feel they are getting what they need out of the advising relationship. Try not to worry if your relationship looks different from others.

While advising graduate students is an important part of the role faculty play at the University, it is not the only hat they wear. Whoever eventually serves as your adviser has other commitments, both personal and professional. They will be teaching classes, serving on University committees, advising undergraduate students, and conducting their own research. In short, they too are busy people.