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If your dissertation supervisor isn’t right – change him

As work through the process of completing your dissertation, it is extremely important that you establish a firm support system to help you through all of the steps necessary to create the best piece possible. Peers, instructors, sponsors and other associates are all helpful and important. But the most important person during this process is going to be your direct supervisor.

Most departments will assign a specific counselor or supervisor to help you with your dissertation. This supervisor will help you plan for effective research, plan for the research proposal, review rough drafts and data, and ultimately help you with the finalization and submission process.

Since your supervisor will be your go-to for review, it is important that you work well together – and can trust their opinion and understanding of the process.

If You Need to Switch

If you don’t work well together, or you are finding it difficult to get questions answered, it is important to request reassignment early in the process. Ideally, the same supervisor should be involved in the entire project --- not pick up at the end where another left off.

The first thing to do is discuss your concerns with the supervisor. If it is something they aren’t aware of, or something they can fix, it is important to give them that chance. You don’t want to burn any bridges within your department --- or within the school. Communicate effectively to determine whether or not a change is warranted.

What To Do

If you feel it would benefit you to work with another supervisor, you need to contact the Department Chair immediately.

In a written letter or e-mail, explain your reasoning for the switch. Include dates that you have met, or tried to, as well as information on the specific subject your dissertation covers. Explain any issues that you may see as you move forward.

After explaining your concerns, request a meeting to discuss your options further. And make sure the Chair understands that you have already voiced your concerns – and your desire to switch – to your supervisor so that the process is completely transparent.

Moving Forward

Your dissertation may very well be the most important piece of work you complete in your entire educational career. To get it done right, and succeed at graduation, you must have the right support system in place – and a supervisor that you can easily work with, trust, and lean on for help completing important tasks.