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Managing the Time

  • Leave some time at the end of the session to ask, “Is there anything we haven’t addressed?” Then, make an outline of the student’s next steps – “so, first you’ll do . . .? and second . . . ? and then . . . ? – and make sure that the student writes it down (or that you write it down for him).
  • Less formally, you can conclude by asking, “Was this helpful?” or “Do you feel like you can go write the paper now?” You often get a “yes, but . . .” answer that can tell you how to use the last few minutes of the consultation.
  • When a student leaves a consultation in which you’ve mostly worked on thesis, have her write down a list of questions that will help her evaluate whether or not she has a thesis. (Either as she works more on this paper or for another paper.) For example, “Why is this an interesting question?” or “What’s the proof?”
  • Check in with the student half- or partway through the consultation (at some moment of transition): “is there anything else?” “was this helpful?” In doing so, find ways to phrase the question that don’t set the student up to judge you (because, in that case, you’ll just get feel-good answers).
  • Map out the session early on. Push the student to identify her main concern as specifically as possible. This can help you make the consultation more efficient and can also help you time it.