Many doctoral students face difficulty choosing their advisers and committee members. Every university has different parameters about the choice of advisers. Sometimes scholars have advised their supervisors upon entry to the programme and recommended to stick to those advisers until viva preparation. Some departments provide liberty to scholars to keep switching their advisers. You should think the following questions at the time of considering an adviser and a dissertation topic as the answers to these questions will help you decide about choosing an adviser.
- Does the adviser have expertise and interest in the topic?
- Which theoretical approaches does the faculty member use?
- Which research methods does the faculty member use?
- Will the adviser have funding to support you?
If you are planning to pursue research in your professional field, for instance, research based on your practical knowledge built while in the workforce, you will have more latitude in choosing a dissertation topic. Your professors will appreciate your expertise in the field and will allow you to advance your knowledge with professional training and career prospects. Your constraint will naturally be the availability of an adviser. However, this constraint lingers even though you have the flexibility to choose an adviser. This is because your adviser will constrain your choice of topic, research methodologies, and conceptual approaches for analysis.
So you can conclude that though you have rights to decide your adviser, some decisions will be influenced by the common practices of the programme or university. Therefore, you have to balance your own interests with the resources available to you.
Here is a matrix designed to balance between working on a research topic and working with an adviser.
Chances are your adviser will be involved in your research topic and help you with issues related to the literature review, data sources, conceptual approaches, methodologies, and the like. It is called a mentoring approach. This is the best situation irrespective of your research area and topic because you get full and acute support from your supervisor.
Your approach will navigate from mentoring to coaching if your interest in a topic is more important than the involvement of your adviser. Implicit in the coaching model is helping you with practices in your research field. However, your adviser will not guide you the latest developments in the field and identify areas where the field needs improvement. The coaching model is embraced if you are pursuing your research in your professional field. You will benefit from your work experience to meet your research objectives.
Another option is an inadvisable model. This is the approach when you have limited interest in the topic and your adviser has limited involvement in your research. You will spend several days and nights, holding caffeinated drinks, and eventually end up with giving up your research in the middle.
It is better if you choose either mentoring or coaching model. If you do not want to suffer from the torturous grip of a PhD, you should select a topic that keeps you engaged and a dissertation adviser who helps you persist.