Becoming Independent

by | August 31, 2012

We advisors are constantly reminding our advisees that the dissertation is the self-paced and independent research phase of their doctoral journey. Although my blogging colleagues have also written about what it means to become independent, I think it is time to revisit that topic.

What are some behaviors of an independent researcher? Recently a learner asked me to let him know when his next milestone is due. All of our learners have ready access to their milestone transcript and should all know their next deadlines, so I am unlikely to tell them a due date. I will, however, remind them how to find their milestone transcript so they can check it any time they want.

I share that incident because that is representative of the communications I sometimes have with the learners who might NOT be exhibiting the behaviors of an independent researcher. Becoming independent means that you want to know where to find such information and you will go on a hunt to locate it. And because you employ critical thinking skills in beginning the search, you are likely to find what you need quickly.

Independent researchers are the ones who have taken the time to find where the most important information can be found on iGuide. They know where to find the second extension request forms or the SMR forms or the IRB A to Z handbook. They not only know that they have ID numbers, they also know how to find their ID numbers and use them.

Independent researchers are the ones who also think critically about how and where to find information. When their mentor suggests they get more information about X topic, they do not call advisors and ask where they can find that information. They think about where to begin the search.
We advisors (and a number of mentors) are always getting requests from learners to help them figure out how to use software, including Microsoft Excel or Word features – such as track changes. The term “track changes in Word” gives you 25 million hits in a Google search. Quantitative and qualitative software both come with instructions.

You can help yourself to become an independent researcher if you change at least one of your behaviors. Take a few moments to sit down and think about where you can search to find the answers you need. Then go find it.