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Author Topic: Meetings with Advisors  (Read 2327 times)
phdforum
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« on: December 31, 2012, 12:20:54 PM »

Hi there,

I am looking to have more structured and organized meetings with my advisor.

What do you do when you meet?  How do you make an agenda/how long of an agenda?  Does your advisor read the email agenda before you meet?

My problem is that my advisor talks excessively and rarely lets me speak.  He also gets distracted and drifts the conversation.  We often end up talking about my assistantship/lab work and NOT my individual paper or research project.

How can I take control of the meetings with him being OK with it?  What works and does not work?  What are PhD students allowed to do (and what would be considered unfair if my advisor said NO)?
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erzuliefreda
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« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2012, 12:38:04 PM »

There are no real guidelines for these sorts of meetings. Each advisor and advisee relationship is different and has its own rules, some of which are spoken and some of which are implicit. Your best bet might be to talk to more advanced graduate students who work with your advisor and see what has worked for them.
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cajunmama
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« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2012, 12:52:08 PM »

My advisor and I meet often, at least once a week. We have one weekly meeting which would be considered structured compared to the others. While we have no set agenda, we usually go over the same general topics- my classes (taking and teaching), The Project, and now the very, very early stages of my dissertation. Anything new or any progress in those areas are discussed, stuff like that. No formal agenda, just conformation emails. The other "meetings" happen if I have an issue or he needs something from me. We are a small department, the faculty are very supportive and I have a really good relationship with my advisor.  I know that my success is his success, I'm his first PhD student and he just made tenure. He is actively pushing for me to take more initiative and drive the project forward.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2012, 3:16:42 PM »

I recommend that you go into each meeting with a written list of specific questions you want answered.  Do not leave until at least one of those questions is answered.  Make a big point of consulting the list.

Advisors can do anything.  Unfairness is limited to things like sexual harassment or making you dog sit.  You probably will get better results, though, if you start setting the agenda instead of just going through the motions.
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optimisticfungus
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« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2012, 3:34:57 PM »

Your best bet might be to talk to more advanced graduate students who work with your advisor and see what has worked for them.

+1

My meetings with my adviser were often 30 minutes in length and tended to occur sporadically. I would briefly explain the purpose or topic of the meeting in the email requesting a date and time to meet. It may behoove you to write out the questions you want input on and bring that sheet to the meeting, as a way to keep the meeting on task. Whether or not you need an actual agenda really depends on your adviser and his/her preferences. Does your adviser reply promptly (and in sufficient detail) to emails? If so, then any question you have that doesn't get resolved at your meeting could be emailed afterwards.
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prof_twocents
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Did I miss anything important?


« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2012, 3:44:24 PM »

The adviser generally will set the rules for the meeting, not the grad student. Yes, I know this is one of the injustices foisted onto poor grad students by an unfair universe, but it is not a relationship of equals. You might be able to change a few things at the margins, but if the adviser's style won't work for you, you might consider choosing an adviser who fits better.

My own adviser listened to my initial dissertation proposal and then said, "So, I'll see you again in a few years when you submit your entire dissertation."
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msparticularity
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« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2012, 4:27:06 PM »

The adviser generally will set the rules for the meeting, not the grad student. Yes, I know this is one of the injustices foisted onto poor grad students by an unfair universe, but it is not a relationship of equals. You might be able to change a few things at the margins, but if the adviser's style won't work for you, you might consider choosing an adviser who fits better.

My own adviser listened to my initial dissertation proposal and then said, "So, I'll see you again in a few years when you submit your entire dissertation."

Sure--but there's nothing wrong with telling (or emailing) your advisor that you would like to meet with him/her specifically to discuss your own individual research. You can include a couple of specific questions you'd like feedback on, and ask whether you should schedule a separate appointment, or just plan to do it in conjunction with the regular meeting.
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cajunmama
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« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2012, 5:24:17 PM »

I also should add that the one time I actually wrote a list of very specific items, my advisor noticed and was determined to address every single one.
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chaosbydesign
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« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2012, 11:06:52 PM »

I talk with my PI all the time and find that the conversations are much easier when I know exactly what I want to talk about when I go in. That doesn't mean it doesn't take a while to actually have that conversation with all the talking and the going off on tangents that happens, but the conversations are productive if I make sure to keep on top of the list of things I actually want to talk about.

Of course, my PI tells me all the time that we never meet and I never tell him what I'm doing, even though we meet almost every day and talk about what I'm doing. I think we're still figuring out the best way to work together.
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aysecik
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« Reply #9 on: January 01, 2013, 4:23:40 PM »

As others have said, it is quite advisor dependent. But I would second polly_mer (seems to be, as usual) and suggest you go in with the questions you need answered and/or issues you need to discuss. If you have the chance, start by mentioning you prepared this list and asking if it's ok to go through them. In my case, after I joined my post-doc lab, I noticed that in my biweekly meetings, I would leave my advisor's room excited about everything but without having solved my problems (two excitable people in a room, 30 minutes time limit, well, you know). The first time I brought an agenda, I mentioned I brought it to make sure I used her time efficiently. It was very helpful.

Try to keep your agenda manageable - maybe order your questions by importance and/or urgency, to make sure you get to one or two before things get... diverted... I would recommend not e-mailing it, just bringing it as a guideline for you and your advisor both.

Good luck!
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yemaya
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« Reply #10 on: January 01, 2013, 8:21:39 PM »

The adviser generally will set the rules for the meeting, not the grad student. Yes, I know this is one of the injustices foisted onto poor grad students by an unfair universe, but it is not a relationship of equals. You might be able to change a few things at the margins, but if the adviser's style won't work for you, you might consider choosing an adviser who fits better.

My own adviser listened to my initial dissertation proposal and then said, "So, I'll see you again in a few years when you submit your entire dissertation."

Sure--but there's nothing wrong with telling (or emailing) your advisor that you would like to meet with him/her specifically to discuss your own individual research. You can include a couple of specific questions you'd like feedback on, and ask whether you should schedule a separate appointment, or just plan to do it in conjunction with the regular meeting.

I would also recommend this.  You will give him a heads up that you really need to discuss certain things, and you might even get an answer to some of your questions before you formally meet.  And if he gets going, it gives you a bit more room to politely redirect the conversation (i.e. Thank you for that.  I was hoping that we could also go over X and Y.  What are your thoughts?)  From this and your other thread, your advisor comes across as a young, probably very enthusiastic, but inexperienced advisor.  The outpouring of discussion on your lab work may well be a productive of his enthusiasm, rather than a conscious attempt to steer or dominate the conversation.  If I'm right, you can probably be a little more direct in communicating your needs. Obviously, you don't want to be rude (not that you would), but it's ok to put down signals that you really need his insight on A and B instead of X and Y.
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edwidge
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« Reply #11 on: January 01, 2013, 9:46:10 PM »

Some advisers are pretty rigid and regimented, some like to ramble a bit...I think it makes perfect sense for you to prepare some specific questions related to your projects. You could also email broad questions, then use the meetings to follow up on greater specifics. I am personally delighted if grad students come to meetings well-organized, prepared to ask questions, and so on. To me it suggests that they are invested in their learning, instead of passively waiting for me to tell them what to do next (not suggesting that this is what you are doing--sounds like your adviser bats for Team Ramble).
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mediumrare
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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2013, 9:32:00 PM »

I think if you want more structured discussions, you might have to be the one to lead on this. My advisor tends to go off on tangents too and I've learnt that if I want the conversation to go back or go into another direction I just have to insert my own Segway such as "That sounds great, but before I forget, I want to ask about X" or "Speaking of African frog poison, I need some help on X".

He doesn't take offense (I can't imagine why someone would anyway) and we both get what we need out of the meeting.
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polly_mer
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Have you worked on that project today?


« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2013, 10:22:33 PM »

For the record, Segway is a vehicle like this one.

A segue is a smooth transition to another topic.
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greyscale
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« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2013, 10:44:45 PM »

"Speaking of African frog poison, I need some help on X".

Plus if you say that in the right tone, perhaps it works as a subtle threat.

Anyway, it's good advice. My advisor wouldn't go off on tangents so much as we'd just talk past each other. Usually I could manage to pull it back to the important question like you suggest, but one memorable day, it was so frustrating that I started crying. I do NOT recommend that. But. The hilarious part? As soon as I did, he stopped, handed me his kleenex box, and said "Oh! I'm sorry, I wasn't listening to what you were saying! Let's start again." as if he'd had this happen a zillion times and learned what it meant. And, sure enough, I admitted this story to a labmate and she said, "Yeah, same thing happened to me. Actually, I think it's happened to everyone here."
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