Ph.D. Advising and Mentorship

Your doctoral supervisor will serve as your mentor throughout your time here at Penn. It is important that you take steps to take to build a good, successful relationship with your supervisor.

Good practices for Ph.D. students and advisors

Students should keep the following “good practices” in mind as they begin and continue their Ph.D. work:

  • Meetings with your supervisor: Are they regular and available when difficulties arise? Is progress documented, and are research directions agreed upon?
  • Training: Are you receiving research training to follow correct experimental practices, and do you have complete records of procedures and results?
  • Feedback: Do you receive timely feedback on draft papers and/or chapters of your dissertation?
  • Meeting leading scholars in your field: Does your supervisor introduce you to speakers and encourage you to give public presentations on aspects of your research?
  • If you take a leave or conduct research elsewhere, do you have adequate supervision?

Your role in building the student-supervisor relationship

In addition to the good practices mentioned above, which allow you know that your relationship with your supervisor is strong, students should also consider the following guidelines:

  • Your topic: Be sure you know that your research topic and methodology are likely to result in an acceptable doctoral dissertation (yield original contributions to knowledge).
  • Your literature review: Keep yours up-to-date and regularly review the literature in your research areas as it is published.
  • Your dissertation committee: You should meet regularly, and you should prepare and present a progress research report and outline future research directions at these meetings.
  • Records: Are your experimental records exemplary, complete, and replicable?
  • Intellectual property: You need to have a clear understanding with your supervisor when it comes to ownership of intellectual property (see intellectual property/patent policy).
  • Completing your degree: Regularly consult the Ph.D. Student Handbook, and set yourself a realistic timetable.
  • Your writing: Regularly work on and practice developing your writing skills.
  • Meetings with your supervisor: Do you make yourself available at mutually convenient times?