As Valentine’s Day approaches many of us still find ourselves searching for that special someone. That’s right, you know what I mean. Someone to talk with, someone to share ideas with, someone who can criticize you when you need it, but who can also be supportive when the going gets rough. Most of us need someone like that right about now, and for those who haven’t found him or her, I’ve decided to put together a list of tips and tricks to help you out. And so, without further ado here’s Phil Stillman’s “How to Find and Retain Your Very Own Thesis Advisor.”
Step Number One – Figure out What Your Interests Are: The most important thing you can do to snag a thesis advisor who you want to work with and who will want to work with you is figuring out what it is you want to think about for the next six months. Monsters? Affect Theory? Japanese Philosophy? Video games about shopping? The obesity of cats in the contemporary American intimate sphere? WHO you will work with is an impossible question to answer until you know WHAT it is you want to do. This does not mean having a super clear idea of what your thesis will look like, it just means knowing what your likes and dislikes (long walks on the beach…)
Numero Dos – Get Some Discipline: There are about a million and a half ways to do anything in academia, and it is important that you know your own style. In other words, if you like thinking about groups and populations rather than individuals or specific art objects, but HATE math and science, DO NOT work with a sociologist. If you want to work on Philosophy and Literature but aren’t into Analytic Philosophy, DO NOT work with a Philosopher. What you need to know is who is reading who. Like Derrida? You probably want to work with someone in English, French, or Comparative Literary Studies, NOT Philosophy. Hate literature? Stick to Anthropology or History. Etc. Your chosen advisor is likely to lean pretty heavily on the conventions of their field, and their take on what that means might differ from yours, so be savvy!
Finally – Look for Someone Who Does What You Want To Do, and Who Does It How You Want To Do It: Having gotten your own self sorted, the trick is to find a facilitator and critic of your work. Your thesis advisor is not a coworker, not even really a teacher, they are a critic of your work. Therefore, you need someone who you think can tell you what you’re doing wrong, and you don’t want to be criticized for doing what it is you want to do. Remember: once they sign the form, they decide the grade, no negotiation. Find someone who can call you out in a way you respect, someone who can make you be a better scholar by catching your mistakes without making you crazy.
At the end of the day, it’s all about you. Make sure your advisor can facilitate YOU doing what YOU want!