Working with your Research Advisor

Your faculty research advisor has more experience and greater knowledge of how research works, but you are both responsible for making the relationship work. Here are a few tips for working effectively with your research advisor:

  • Establish open lines of communication. Discuss how often you should meet with your research advisor. Ask how you should best communicate with her/him (email, phone, or hold on to questions until you can ask them in person). Try to schedule your meetings ahead of time to avoid putting it off until the last minute.
  • Talk about work style. Find out when your advisor would like to review your written work. Some faculty hate reading rough drafts and only want to see polished prose, while others want to see what you are writing early on.
  • Take responsibility for running meetings. Come prepared with a list of questions and also a list of what you’ve been working on and what you plan to work on over the next few weeks. After the meeting, email your faculty advisor with a summary to help keep track of what you’ve talked about.
  • Think of yourself as a scholar. Share what you’ve learned through participating in research conferences and working on papers. Your faculty advisor can give you feedback and help you develop your presentation abilities. Additionally, students can apply for extra funding for equipment or supplies (up to $500) for their UCARE project if needed.
  • Keep your promises. If you’ve agreed that you’d email a weekly progress update, make a note of it and follow up in a timely manner. Show your faculty advisor that you’re reliable and can keep track of small as well as big assignments.
  • Remember that your faculty advisor has multiple jobs. Faculty are busy individuals. They not only conduct research and teach but also serve on committees, write grants, and publish papers. It’s not your faculty advisor’s job to keep track of you. It is your job to help your advisor keep track of your progress.

Interested in learning more about how to build a good mentor-mentee relationship? Check out:

Working Effectively with your Research Mentor. By Rebecca Beals. McNair News. 3,1, Fall 2008. 9.

How to be a Good Mentee. By Tess MS Neal. Observer. Association for Psychological Sciences. 24, 2, February 2011.

University of Nebraska – Lincoln Office of Graduate Studies’ resources on mentoring.

Adapted from Stanford University’s Undergraduate Research Programs office, University of Michigan Ann Arbor’s How to Get the Mentoring You Want, and University of Marquette’s Suggestions for Finding and Working with a Mentor.