Mentoring and Advising
Common Questions Regarding PhD Advisors and Mentoring
Ph.D. education is fundamental to the University’s teaching and research mission. For an intellectual community of scholars to flourish, it is important to acknowledge the principles that underlie the compact between Ph.D. students, the faculty, and other members of the University community.
It is in this spirit that the Doctor of Philosophy Board, in collaboration with faculty and students from across the University, has articulated a statement of rights and responsibilities for doctoral students at Johns Hopkins. The principles described in this document are to be realized in policies established by the various Schools of the University; the Schools will also develop mechanisms to monitor and enforce such policies.
How am I assigned an advisor?
Both the timing and the selection process vary by department, and you should consult your department’s Director of Graduate Studies for further information. Once you have an advisor, it is important to set mutually beneficial expectations early on—with respect to day-to-day responsibilities, frequency of meetings and/or communication, timeliness of feedback and assumptions from both parties about the dissertation process.
How often should I be meeting with my advisor?
As often as possible. It is in your best interests to be clear on the goals of your projects and research, and maintaining a consistent level of communication with your advisor is the best way to ensure that you are maintaining progress towards these goals. Frequent communication helps to proactively address any issues that may arise. A good method is to set up regular meetings (can be every week, once every two weeks, once a month, etc.) that you and your advisor agree to and stick to.
What kind of things should I be discussing with my advisor?
Anything that may be relevant to your research. The current status of your research or recent project outcomes; the next two to three steps in your research (a short-term roadmap of your project); recommendations on courses or professional development activities that may help you connect with your broader research community; funding sources or grants for which you should consider applying.
What kind of feedback will/should I receive from my advisor?
Some advisors are more hands-off than others, so it will depend on the nature of your interaction with them. At a very minimum, you should have answers to your questions, and a clear set of expectations for your research in the short- and long-term.
Will I be formally evaluated by my advisor?
This evaluation format may depend on the department. That said, as per policy in the Krieger and Whiting Schools, all departments are required to provide formal evaluation to all graduate students once a year. This is called an ‘Annual Review’. For the most part, this is an assessment of progress throughout the graduate student academic cycle. It helps to sit down with your advisor in person to discuss the annual progress report. It can be a meaningful conversation to obtain feedback.
With whom can I speak if I’m having a conflict with my advisor?
Some departments have a faculty member who serves as a graduate student liaison, with the responsibility of helping to manage these conflicts. (They are usually called the ‘Director of Graduate Studies, or the ‘Director of PhD Students’, etc.,). In departments without a designated liaison, the department chair may perform this role. In situations where you may be unsure about your options for resolving a conflict, contact Christine Kavanagh (WSE) or Renee Eastwood (KSAS). They can provide advice, guidance as to policies and options, and are discreet and sensitive to any confidentiality concerns.
Can I speak with faculty members other than my advisor?
Yes, of course! Part of your academic and professional development in graduate school is making connections with other researchers. However, note that depending on your research group, you may need to consult with your advisor on any particulars that cannot be discussed outside your group. These may include results that are unpublished and critical to your research; devices or processes on which your group is currently securing intellectual property rights; or projects for which your group has signed non-disclosure agreements with sponsors.
Can I obtain career advice from my advisor?
It is important to consider your career options early and decide if you plan to pursue an academic or nonacademic appointment and explore appropriate resources. Be sure to talk to your advisor while also meeting with visiting scholars, alumni, and others who have academic and nonacademic positions to find out what to expect. The Career Center may also be a very good resource for dossier preparation and advice. If you are interested in a teaching career, then you must gain teaching experience sometime during your graduate study, so ask your department about this.
Online Mentoring Resources
- Adviser, Teacher, Role Model, Friend (National Academy Press)
- How to be a Good Mentee (4researchers.org)
- Academic Mentoring—How to Give It and How to Get It (JAMA)