Graduates of online doctoral programs often credit their mentor for playing an important role in the successful completion of their dissertation. Here’s what a great mentor can do for you—and how to find one.

A happy Walden graduate at the doctoral hooding ceremony.Completing an online doctoral degree program requires the highest level of dedication, diligence, and hard work. After all, in addition to your coursework, you’ll conduct intense research on your dissertation thesis subject. But being a doctoral student is far less intimidating when you have the right mentor at your side. Ideally, that person will help guide you and keep you on track—and can make all the difference in the world in your success.

Characteristics of a Good Online Doctoral Program Mentor

A good connection with your mentor is an invaluable asset during the course of your doctoral degree. It’s not unusual for the doctoral process to go on for several years, so it’s important for you to have a guide to keep you on track, focused, and motivated to continue forward and complete your degree. You’ll want to make that connection with someone exceptional—and compatible. Here are some of the qualities to look for in a mentor:

  1. Possesses knowledge and expertise around your dissertation topic—or is simply aware of and interested in the field in general.

  2. Has published quality research papers in peer-reviewed journals—it’s a bonus if they’re currently conducting research in a related field of interest.

  3. Will support you throughout the doctoral degree process.

  4. Can dedicate sufficient time and energy to you.

  5. Will provide regular evaluations of your work to help guide you in the right direction.

  6. Operates with integrity and fairness and adheres to ethical guidelines.

  7. Will allow you to make independent decisions about your research.

  8. Can offer constructive advice about following your interests, utilizing the most productive and efficient methods.

  9. Holds a respected position or is otherwise held in high esteem within the scholarly community.

  10. Will encourage you to overcome obstacles and challenges to help you reach your goal.

How to Find a Mentor in an Online Doctoral Degree Program

If you’re not sure how to find a mentor with these (and other) desirable qualities, here are a few ways to start:

  • Contact other students in your program, especially those who are further along in their studies, and ask how they like working with their chairperson.
  • During your coursework, pay attention to how faculty members teach and the nature of the feedback they provide.
  • Contact faculty members within your program and interview them about their work and their approach to mentoring doctoral candidates.
  • Review the LinkedIn profiles of faculty members you’re considering for mentorship, and read their publications and research to help assess whether it’s a good fit.

Some mentors may have expertise in the doctoral candidate’s area of interest and have published research papers on the same or a related subject; others may have less direct experience in the subject matter but extensive knowledge of the quantitative and/or qualitative research methods required, and can guide you as you collect and analyze data. This careful “match” between student and mentor is the key ingredient for a successful relationship—and can make for a rewarding doctoral and dissertation experience.

An Online Doctoral Program Graduate Praises Her Mentors

Dr. Krista K. Laursen, a Walden Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) graduate, knows the real difference a good doctoral mentor can make:

“As soon as my chair, Dr. Kenneth Gossett, was assigned to me, we had a phone conversation that set the tone of our relationship for years,” she says. “He wanted to understand my passions and why I was interested in my topic.”

From that point, they communicated at least once a week. In the last 2 months of her doctoral study, their calls increased to every other day. “He and my committee members were the keys to my success,” Dr. Laursen continues. “They were just as passionate about my topic as I was and became true advocates.”

Explore Walden University's online doctoral degree programs to discover the degree options and comprehensive doctoral support services we offer. Get the help you need to continue your education and advance your career goals. Earn your degree in a convenient online format that fits your busy life.


Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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