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I don't know how typical my experience is, but here's how it's gone for me: I'm defending in the fall, and I've never actually met with any of my committee members besides my advisor, with whom I touch base every six months or so. The rationale for that is: my advisor told me that committee members usually prefer to see the chapters after they have been revised in line with the advisor's comments. After I submit a chapter to my advisor, I usually prefer to start on the next chapter and let the previous chapter with my advisor's comments on it percolate in the background. So I currently have three chapters that have my advisor's comments on them, and when I revise them I assume they will go out to the other committee members.

While I could see how this arrangement might not be desirable for some people, it has worked quite well for me. Most of my chapters were developed out of material I had already been working on in some capacity or another in seminars, independent studies, conferences, etc., so a lot of the material had already been commented upon in some capacity (in some cases by professors who would later become committee members). In addition, I came to the proposal stage with a pretty well-defined dissertation project, so my committee members' comments on the proposal served me well for writing my dissertation. So, while my advisor seems willing (and happy!) to meet as often as I'd like, it just hasn't seemed necessary.

former chair

I met with my director every semester. Once we agreed to work together, we met to talk about the topic. My initial proposal was too much for one dissertation, but when we discussed it, I was able to narrow in on a figure and a manageable problem. I then produced an outline with four main chapters. My director thought this looked reasonable. We agreed then that I would submit one chapter draft by the end of each of the next four semesters. After he read a draft, we would meet to discuss it.

I submitted these drafts to all four members of my committee but only met with my director. One member gave substantial written feedback on each draft, while another provided some. The fourth member, the external reader, made few comments at all, other than to offer encouragement.

Fwiw, I wish I'd met with my director more often as the end of the project neared. I feel my final chapter is the weakest. But I was also done with grad school by then and ready to finish up.


IIRC I think I met my supervisor (for dissertation stuff; we had plenty of other interactions) every four or five months, usually when I had something concrete to show him. Towards the end, however, we met every week or two.

It was mostly an OK arrangement on my end, because I'm pretty self-directed, although more frequent feedback sessions would probably have cut down my time in the program (I took seven years). On the other hand, the work I produced--on my dissertation and in my side projects--was well and truly mine--driven by my interests and commitments, development of my thinking, etc. Although I'd initially thought my supervisor's views were kind of oddball and out there, I ended up in a very close ballpark by entirely different means, and without any nudging on his part. And that's pretty cool.

If I were supervising PhD students--which I'm not, and probably never will--I think I'd want to formally meet with them about once a month, regardless of whether they had work to show me. I think it's especially important in the early years of a program, when the student needs some direction with respect to professionalization (especially in terms of induction into the subfield and its inner workings). Not everyone is as plugged in as I was. And I do think it's useful and valuable to talk over ideas with someone who knows more than you do, although there's a fine line between encouraging and guiding a student and just cloning yourself.


I should have added: I think that the onus should mostly be on supervisors to set regular meetings.


I met with my supervisor for an hour (sometimes half an hour) every two weeks. I did not hold regular meetings with other committee members. I only visited their office hours when I had some questions and knew they could help me with them.


This is going to depend on how far along you are. I met with my supervisor every two weeks when I first started working on my stuff. Once I had a plan in place, I met with him two or three times a semester. My #2 committee member, I met with maybe once a semester. My #3 committee member only saw the penultimate drafts of things.

I think by means of writing, showing that writing to other people and talking about it, and revising, so it would be impossible for me to complete anything if I weren't showing writing to other people. I need many drafts before I'm even satisfied that I know what I think. You might have a different way of thinking and completing work, though.


I did my PhD in the UK. I had already done a master’s. I met with my supervisor whenever I had a new draft of a chapter, which was probably a handful of times a year. My impression is that this was the norm. (Though I didn’t feel like I’d have been out of line to ask to meet a bit more often.)

Trevor Hedberg

Given that the ABD phase is the most likely place that graduate students will struggle and drop out of the program, I think it's best for them to be meeting with their dissertation advisor regularly. In my own case, I met with him about every two weeks on average during fall and spring semesters while I was working on it. This was true even if I produced no new content between sessions, and that happened a fair amount -- my week to week progress had high variance. Nowadays, with virtual meetings being easy and commonplace, this should not be too burdensome, and it's an excellent way to keep your advisor in the loop about how things are going.

Newly Dr.

I also met with my primary supervisor about every 2 or 3 weeks (and that seems to be the norm where I did my PhD). One of my other panel members about once a semester. And the third panel member once or twice in the entire time I was doing my PhD.

I would advise the following: try to meet with your panel as often as possible and show them as much work as you can. But if you don't get helpful feedback or feel like it is not helping you, then don't worry if you aren't meeting with them regularly. A panel is there to help you, so you should use them as much as you can as long as it is helping you.

Contrary to one comment above: It may well be that supervisors should be setting regular meetings. But they won't. The onus is on you to organise meetings with all your panel members simply because that is the fact of how things work (almost everywhere from what I've seen).

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