Choosing an Adviser

An adviser can play a variety of roles in your work on the thesis. It may be more important to find someone who fulfills the roles that are essential to you than to have an adviser who is the leading light in his or her field. Among the roles an adviser can play are:

The Expert: As an expert in your area, an adviser can be a tremendous resource. He or she can provide you with valuable bibliographic references and offer insight into how your topic fits in the larger body of scholarship. Also, your adviser’s intuition may allow you to discern which of your more unusual ideas are potentially productive.

The Taskmaster: Pacing your work is an important aspect of the thesis project. As well as observing official deadlines, you will have to set unofficial ones. An adviser who insists on setting and meeting strict deadlines can provide the necessary motivation for students who have a hard time keeping up.

The Editor: Some students prefer to have an adviser who is unobtrusive when it comes to deadlines and ideas, but is willing to spend considerable time on style and the mechanics of writing.

The Critic: Your adviser can offer constant challenges to your ideas, in an attempt to encourage you to think through every detail of your argument. His or her critical perspective can help you to determine the extent of your progress.

When you begin thinking about your topic, spend sometime talking with seniors who are writing theses. They will be able to give you an idea about what combination of roles their advisers fulfill. This information will be invaluable as you consider possible advisers. Once you have determined your chosen area of interest, consultations with faculty will enable you to refine your ideas and to initiate the search for an adviser. Your meetings with them will give you an opportunity to judge how well they might be able to respond to your plans and needs. If a faculty member appears interested in your project and seems to possess the combinations of skills you seek in adviser, simply ask if he or she is available.


The importance of organization in your work on the thesis cannot be overemphasized.

Once you have an adviser, sit down with him or her and map out a timetable. Good long-range planning is vital in grappling with such a large project, especially since you are unlikely to have had any experience with a similar endeavor. Your own plans should include developing a good relationship with your adviser. As in any working relationship, communication is the key to productivity.

Try to schedule regular meetings with your adviser and do all that you can to make them substantive. The frequency of your meetings will doubtless vary of the course of the semester. Most students meet more often with their advisers once they have begun writing.