Mentoring Researchers

Categories: Focus Series, MentorSpace, MethodSpace Live!, Students, Supervising research, Teaching

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The MethodSpace focus for August is on teaching research methods, continuing in September, with resources on mentoring, supervising, and guiding researchers. You can find the whole series here, including information about the September 12 webinar,”Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow.” Register now and find the time in your zone here.

Conceptualizing the Role of Mentor

We’ll explore roles and practices of mentors during the month of September as part of a focus on methods instruction. We’ll consider roles for mentors within formal programs in academic institutions and organizations, and the roles of mentors in informal, voluntary relationships with mentees. In some doctoral programs, the term mentor is given to faculty who are dissertation supervisors. For others, the term refers to someone who takes you under their proverbial wing.

The Oxford English Dictionary offers a succinct definition:

An experienced and trusted adviser.
(Soanes & Stevenson, 2004, p. 893 )

Two inter-related components of this definition are experience, and trust. What do these concepts mean in the context of a mentoring relationship in a research context?

Thinking about mentoring: Start with a map.

I created this visual map based on my own perceptions of ways to think about the two sides of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and attitudes associated with the role of research mentor.

Those highlighted in green are oriented to knowledge, skills and experience. Two necessary categories are: familiarity with the subject matter of the mentee’s research, and expertise with the research approach. Those highlighted in blue refer to trust-building attitudes and soft skills. I identified more categories on this side. Some that are more about function, such as efficiency, communication, and collaboration. Others relate to personal characteristics such as generosity, commitment, and respect.

I brainstormed more specifics for each category, shown here.

What else? I will continue to add to and refine this map, and welcome your input. Use the comment area or contact me with ideas.

Related MethodSpace Posts

Register now for the Nurturing the Researchers of Tomorrow webinar!


Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (Eds.). (2004). Concise Oxford English dictionary (11th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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