How to Choose an Academic Advisor

This post, from UNC Chapel Hill’s Laura Broom, has lots of really smart advice about how to choose an advisor and put together a committee for students at the doctoral level. The advice is also very sound for students in library school.

An excerpt:

Asking someone to be on your committee is a lot like asking someone on a date: It’s nerve-wracking and awkward, but if they say “yes,” it’s elating.


What are your favorite subject areas?  Burning questions?  Smoldering theses?  Once you figure out what kind of intellectual work you want to do (broadly or narrowly), you’ll be in a better position to build your committee (and you’ll sound much more like a boss when they ask what you’re currently working on).  But you should consider more than just whether you and a professor have an area of interest in common; personality and working style count for a lot.  Do you want someone who will manage you closely or give you free reign?  Someone who sticks to tight schedules or allows for more intellectual meandering?  Someone who will boost you up with positive comments or push you hard to be more rigorous with your work?  Be honest with yourself about what you need from your working relationships in order to succeed in your project.


Email the professor to set up a face-to-face meeting; if you have not taken a class with the professor yet, emailing him or her might be awkward, but c’est la vie—just introduce yourself and ask if there is a convenient time to meet.  In your meeting, chat through your current project—you want to be sure that the professor is interested in the topic you want to explore.  Then explain that you’re currently putting together your committee, and because of his/her work in the field, especially on [insert specific subject here], you would really appreciate his/her input.  Be prepared, professional, and honest about where you are in your intellectual process.  It’s okay if you aren’t 100% sure about your thesis yet! At the end of the meeting make clear what the next steps will be, then follow up appropriately.



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Filed under Education, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

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