While conducting research as a student you need both research advisors and mentors. Research advisors help you in every step of the research from beginning till publication of research. Research mentors might help you on and off when you think you need some guidance. Students are very lucky to have a good research advisor who can assist the student in taking the right direction in the research. While conducting scholarly research for the first time it is obvious that the student is learning new concepts and procedures that he never experienced before. The research advisor is an expert professional that can help the student in avoiding wrong decisions.
Who is a research advisor?
An advisor can be a teacher, a professional researcher, a research colleague, or an expert in the subject area. The research advisors know the research topic of the their students and feel a responsibility to help their students in accomplishing their research project in the best possible manner. The research advisors usually develop and formulate research question along with the student researchers. The very basic and important step of the research is the formulation of research problem. An advisor helps new student learn how to narrow down a topic to make workable research question.
Students working with research advisors should respect them and listen to their suggestions. There are times when they can have conflict of opinion and the student can ask other members of the research committee for help to resolve the issue. The conflict should be resolved in a respectful manner. First they should listen to each other and reflect upon each other’s opinion, if there is still conflict they can ask help from another expert in the subject area. There is no guarantee that both the advisor and the student will have good compatibility but at least they should maintain good professional attitude towards one another.
It is a student’s responsibility to reach out to the advisor rather then expecting the other way out. Although the advisor should make sure that he is available on the assigned time for the student. There are times when the research advisors could have unexpected meeting or some important engagement and that make availability difficult.
Responsibilities of a research advisor
- The research advisor should manifest good behavior with the students so they should also learn the ethics of working as a researcher. The advisor should not force some decisions on the students especially if the advisor is not involved in the research as an author. The advisor should advise the student and should let him make his own decisions. In this way the student will be able to learn and groom as a researcher.
- Sometimes the advisor is a person who is conducting research with a student or group of students. In this case, the allocation of credit and authorship among the advisor and the students should be well established from the beginning of the research. It is a fraud to make the students work full time on a research and get the whole credit for it in the final publication.
- The advisor should be available during the times that have been decided to discuss the research. The student on the other hand should make sure to not breech the privacy and peace of the advisor by calling him for not so important questions. There should be a unanimous decision about when to ask for help and what is the best way to reach the adviser: phone, email, one-to-one meeting etc.
- The advisor should not show prejudice or bias in helping the student due to some previous experiences with the student-advisee. A research requires honesty, both advisor and advisee should remain honest and work collaboratively.
Who is a research mentor?
A research mentor might be the advisor as well. The research mentor make sure that the researcher is going in the right direction that he is encouraged, motivated, and remain positive throughout the research process. The mentor can any person who has a knowledge of the process of research, knowledge of the topic, and has a good mentoring abilities. This person can be a colleague, a fellow-student, a teacher, a professional researcher, a fellow-researcher, or an assistant in your research. You can have one mentor or as many mentors as you think you need. You cannot expect to reach out one mentor every time you are in need of help. You can have one mentor who can guide you in becoming a groomed researcher, while another who can guide you in each step of the research, and yet another who can help you in getting out of difficult situations during your research. Else, you can have one mentor who can help you on and off during the research.
For mentors it is a great honor to help novice researchers gain understanding of research. On the other hand it is also benefiting and in their interest to help new researchers: through helping new researchers they learn about new ideas in research; they become part of the big social circle of the researchers; and they collaborate and make new contacts with the student researchers.
The student can pay the mentor for his assistance ion the research. In case there is a payment of service involved it should be decided before the beginning of the research. Conflicts might arise if it was not decided in the beginning.
Responsibilities of a good mentor
- The research mentor should be a person who takes personal as well as professional interest in the development of the researcher. While the adviser advises the student to take right decisions related to a research the mentor should help the student in grooming as a researcher.
- The mentor should encourage and motivate the student in difficult times when the student feels dejected, demotivated, or less enthusiastic.
- The research mentor should take keen interest in the student’s growth and should be a source of continuous support for him. The mentor can help the researcher grow as a researcher and make decisions about his career as well.
- Every researcher as he advances in his career as a researcher should serve as a mentor to one or more new researchers.
- Mentors should model good conduct so that the student researchers can also learn the standards of working with others. On the other hand the students should acknowledge the mentor in a way that is most fitting in their research.
- On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research. (2009). 3rd Ed. The National Academies Press. Washington D. C. https://www.nap.edu/read/12192/chapter/1