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Do Not Leave Graduate School Before You Get Your Degree | FinishLine, Tips Tools Techniques for Completing a Thesis or Dissertation from Dr Wendy Carter

February, 2010spacerVolume 6, Issue 2

Welcome to all our new subscribers!
This month’s newsletter continues with tips 6-10 to help you make a good impression in graduate school..

Making a Good Impression in My Graduate Department

To recap from last month's newsletter rules 1-5:

Rule #1: Let Your Hard Work Speak For You
Rule #2: Dress Appropriately
Rule #3: Speak Clearly
Rule #4: Be Professional with Advisor/Committee Members
Rule #5: Respect the Time Others Give

The road to making a good impression continues here.

Rule #6: Manage Your Time Effectively

Your ability to complete projects in a timely manner will help you make a good impression on your professor and or advisor. You should demonstrate that you know how to manage your time effectively by handing in papers, projects and required paperwork by the specified deadline or even before.

The biggest misconception about finishing a thesis or dissertation is the belief that writing is the key component to completion. The real key to finishing is effective time management. This is particularly true given the fact that, for most students, writing the document must be completed in tandem with numerous other important tasks, such as preparing for the job market; moving to or starting a new job; preparing for graduation; or working a full-time job. If time-management is not your forte, let the TA-DA!™ On-line resource tools help you manage, structure, and organize your time to maximize your efforts. To create an online to-do list use

Rule #7: Leave Smart Voice Messages

Be sure not to call your professors at night. Don’t leave long, rambling voice-mail messages with your name and phone number at the end. Keep the script concise: state your name, the time you called and your phone number at the beginning. Then leave a brief message, and repeat your phone number at the end, s-l-o-w-l-y. Nothing is more frustrating than having to replay a message over and over again to catch the person’s name and phone number. It also helps to leave a specific time that you can be reached … and if you leave a specific time, be there to answer the call!

Rule #8: Mind Your Manners in Your E-Mail

When responding by e-mail, keep your correspondence concise. Time is limited. Use a subject line with no more than three to five words that grab your reader's attention. Give the pertinent information in the first line or two, and keep your correspondence to one or two short paragraphs (unless of course a detailed follow-up is expected). Also, don't forget to use proper punctuation, capitalization, grammar and the spell-check function. Be sure to begin you email with a salutation such as Hello, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, etc. Never use a less formal greeting like “Hey” when addressing a faculty member no matter how close you think you are. Under no circumstances should you substitute common acronyms such as “lol” “cuz” “lmao” for actual words when corresponding with faculty and staff.

Rule #9: Remember the Small Ways to Say Thank You

When was the last time you received a handwritten note? A handwritten thank you note always leaves a warm and positive impression on the many people who are helping you with your academic journey. Also valuable are face-to-face “thank you’s,” voice mails, and personal touches such as a copy of an article that the recipient might find valuable.

By all means don’t underestimate the need to make the same positive impression with the administrative staff. A lot of students, at the start of their graduate careers, are a little confused about the role of the administrative staff. What can the administrative staff do for you that your own advisor cannot? It doesn't take more than a few weeks on campus to figure out that the administrative staff can be a critical departmental resource, with a broad perspective on funding, program choices, international problem-solving, and much more. From orientation to commencement, they offer professional and experienced support to help you make the most of your graduate years. Remember to find thoughtful ways to say thank you to the administrative staff for all that they do.

Rule #10: Choose Your Battles Wisely

Your advisor is the coordinator of your thesis or dissertation project. While the major role of your advisor is to share his or her expertise with you to help you develop your ideas, your advisor is also supposed to advocate on your behalf. Should your committee members give you conflicting advice you should bring this to your advisor’s attention.

Resolving conflicts among committee members is part of your advisor’s responsibilities. After you resolve the issue with your advisor, ask if she/he is going to be responsible for communicating the solution to the other committee members. If she/he suggests that you handle that issue it might be prudent to send your advisor an email confirming the agreed upon resolution. You might consider copying the other committee members with this confirmation.

If you and your advisor disagree, about the resolution, you might consider writing a more persuasive argument addressing his concerns. Arguing with your advisor is not time well spent. If you spent the time choosing a well-qualified expert, an active supporter and head cheerleader, these disagreements should be minor and short-lived. You need him/her. Your advisor will be writing recommendations for you well after you have left the university.

If after you’ve reviewed these tips for making a positive impression, you find that you have made a misstep thus far it is never too late to turn things around. While you still need to be yourself, try to implement as many of these steps as possible in your interactions with your lab mates, advisors, committee members and department staff. Sometimes it can be useful to spend a little time observing how other successful graduate students are able to command the attention of others and be seen in a positive light.

Email Question of the Month:


Hello Dr. Carter

Which is the best product for me to purchase to help me coach a student through his Ed.D?

R. Walker


Hello Mr. Walker

Thank you for contacting us at TADA. You had the question about which product is the best to coach a student through his Ed.D. Most coaches purchase TADA Online Resource Tool one month membership for $29 or 3-month membership $49. You could also have your student purchase it for him or herself as well. And you could join our Affiliation Program as well.

I hope this answers your question.

All the best to you and your students.

Dr. Carter


Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D.

About the Author: As a single mother, professor Wendy Y. Carter, Ph.D., completed three masters' degrees and a PhD. Her motto is a Good Thesis/Dissertation is a Done Thesis/Dissertation. She is the creator of a new innovative interactive resource tool on CD—TA-DA! Thesis and Dissertation Accomplished. To learn more, contact us. Privacy is our policy. TA-DA™ Finishline does not give out or sell our subscribers' names or e-mail addresses.

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