Notes toward better advising meetings

Your dissertation advisee is sitting in front of you, but for the life of you, you can’t quite remember what her proposed dissertation methods are, though you remember that they seemed problematic. In fact, the details of her project are fuzzy altogether.

The last draft of the proposal you saw still needed significant work in order to arrive at a researchable question and find appropriate methods. But after giving what you thought was detailed feedback, the student essentially ghosted you for a few months.

Now she’s sitting in your office, and you’re racking your brain to remember the details of her project.

There are a million reasons you might struggle to remember the broad contours, let alone the fine brush strokes, of a project you’re advising.

In all likelihood, you are teaching several classes, working on multiple articles, preparing for a conference, advising several dissertations, and serving on committees for several more. And, if we’re being perfectly honest here, you’re not 20 anymore. Your brain could be forgiven for a few senior moments when it comes to the details of your advisee’s work.

In countries like the U.K., records of supervisory meetings are sometimes a required part of the doctoral process. Students and supervisors have to submit them to show evidence of the frequency and quality of their meetings. The U.S., needless to say, is the wild west of advising. I know faculty who meet with their advisees once a week and others who meet only when the advisee insists on meeting.

Regardless of how often you meet, tracking important information for each advisee over time will reduce your frustration level and increase the productivity of your meetings.

Here is a simple advising meeting notes template that helps you record important project details, agreements, and deadlines. It also includes a list of questions to ask your advisees that can add to your understanding of their work and prevent miscommunications. Best of all, it lets you remember at a glance what the student was working on, what you covered at your last meeting, which readings you recommended, and any deadlines you agreed on.

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