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I am in a terminal masters program in the Humanities. I will have to write my masters thesis at some point and have been told that I will have 3 meetings with my professor.

I have never worked on a thesis or with a professor as closely as this (I did not write a thesis as an undergradute), so I am a bit worried about the whole process.

What am I expected to do exactly? Am I allowed to email my professor with emails? Is it even expected? And if so, how often and much is appropriate between the meetings, and what can I expect to get out of the emails (as opposed to the meetings).

Sorry if this seems basic to some of you - it surely is. But it would be great to know if there are certain academic standards or rules I might not be aware of.

2 Answers 2

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There is no standards about contacting your professor.

I think the proper answer to this is : ask your supervisor about it. Only he can tell you what he expects of you and how available he is. If you keep your email or contact with him civil and polite, their is nothing more to do.

Depending on how many student he has to supervised and his working habits, he might tell you whether he prefers emails or meeting, or if he is able to make extra meetings with you should the need arise.

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  • thanks. but: would having extra meetings not be unfair towards other students? Mar 21, 2016 at 13:56
  • I don't know. It depends if this is a strictly defined exercise or not. But usually teachers are there to help their students (or should be) so it is not that improbable. Also, if others can have extra meetings too, it's not unfair. Anyway, it's free to ask him, then you'll be fixed.
    – M'vy
    Mar 21, 2016 at 14:00
  • @ChrisDoyle, it is the professor's responsibility to ensure fairness between students. It is your responsibility to make the most of your education, and taking advantage of whatever extra help/input instructors are willing to give is a positive thing.
    – user24098
    Mar 21, 2016 at 15:55
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I largely concur with M'vy's answer (and upvoted it), but I think it might also help to think of this in terms of a supervisor-supervisee relationship; you aren't precisely employed by your thesis advisor, but the power relationships are not entirely dissimilar.

There are a few different kinds of emails you might send (and want to discuss with your thesis advisor at the outset):

  • The simple project-management-style update. "This week/fortnight/month I was planning to accomplish X, Y, and Z; X and Y are done, but Z fell a bit behind, so during the next week/fortnight/month I will finish Z and..." The key questions for your thesis advisor are whether and how often you should send these emails.
  • The non-urgent question, the thing you leave a note to yourself about in your writing, and (probably) address en masse with your thesis advisor at intervals. The agreement will likely turn out to be that this is the kind of question that you deal with at scheduled meetings, but again, ask your thesis advisor about how these should best be handled.
  • The showstopper question that stops your work dead in its tracks until it is answered. Your thesis advisor will want clear boundaries around these (some students are prone to unnecessary levels of panic) and a clear understanding of how quickly it is reasonable to expect a response (some students... yeah).

I suspect that understanding this taxonomy of questions from the get-go will mean a much more cordial and useful relationship with your thesis advisor. Good luck!

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