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How to be an Academic Superhero

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay

In universities across the world, academics struggle to establish and sustain their careers while satisfying intensifying institutional demands. Drawing from the author’s decades of observation and experience in academia, this exceptional book responds to the challenges of fostering and sustaining a successful academic career.
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Chapter 3: Find a good adviser

Establishing and Sustaining a Successful Career in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities

Iain Hay


Good doctoral advisers (or supervisors) can make a significant difference to the development of your academic career, either nurturing it carefully or failing to support it usefully. So, if you are able, choose your academic guides carefully.1 Bear in mind when you consider advisers (see Box 3.1) that the relationship you have with them is likely to outlast the duration of your graduate study. They may act as key referees for your first job applications and conceivably as mentors or confidants for many years after the completion of your degree.

The advisory relationship is personal as well as academic. The patterns of practice of some advisers will not suit all students equally well. Some advisers like to keep a tight rein on students, monitoring research activity carefully and providing written comments assiduously, whereas others may be happy to let students find their own way, stepping in only when they feel intervention is required. Depending on your preferences, certain practices may or may not be welcome, so when you are judging prospective advisers, ask them about their philosophy and performance of supervision. It may also pay to see if you can confirm their self-assessments informally through the opinions of some of their current (or recent past) students. If there appear to be discrepancies between the adviser’s views and those of their students, probe a little further.


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