How Important is a PhD Dissertation Advisor?
In your last year of school, writing your dissertation will take a lot of your time. Writing a PhD dissertation is a huge undertaking, and one that you can’t do alone. Your advisor at your university will be a very important asset to the team of people. Among those people will also be classmates, friends and family, professionals in your field, and other professors at your school. Of all of them, your advisor is probably the single most important person because of their experience, and their specific focus on your dissertation.
You probably know what a dissertation is, already: essentially a long essay detailing your research and expertise in the field you’ve been studying. Not only is this the longest project you’ve had to write in your life, but it needs to be the best written, well researched, perfectly edited, properly sourced document you can make it be. During your process of all of these things, your advisor will serve as someone to talk to about ideas, ask questions, and get help from. They have done their own dissertation already, and know the process intimately. Even well-meaning students and friends can’t give you the same range of help that your advisor can.
Working with your Dissertation Advisor
You should still do the work yourself, your advisor won’t do it for you, but apart from that, it’s a good idea to also not bother them with trivial questions. Work it out on your own first, come up with a few possible solutions, and then go to your advisor for their opinion. They might have classes to teach or other students to mentor besides you, and their time is precious. To make the most of what time you do have with your advisor, see if you can’t figure it out another way before approaching them.
That said, they are there for you, and they want to help. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get help from your advisor; just make it worth their time. If you work well with this person, your experience writing your dissertation will be easier and you’ll get a better dissertation out of it. All you need to do is be organized: have a plan of what to work on, and when. If you continue to struggle with something that no one else can answer, odds are your advisor has come across that problem before.