Trying to work it out by having a conversation can be difficult. There are a variety of ways that you can choose to approach a conversation that might lead to different results. Here are two examples of conversations between a student and their advisor and the different outcomes they can lead to.

Let’s have a look at Dani’s first attempt.

In this example Dani:

  • Tells her advisor how she feels
  • Makes statements about what she wants to happen
  • Doesn’t ask her advisor any questions or seek any new information about the situation

Her advisor’s response is:

  • Initially confused about Dani’s statements
  • To disagree with what Dani is saying

In this scenario we never find out why her advisor does not agree with Dani. Dani didn’t ask any questions or try to find out more about her advisor’s opinion. Even though she may be confident that she has all the information to make a good decision it can still be beneficial to try to understand what is going on for the other person in the conflict.

It’s important to remember that people value different parts of the research and writing process. Dani clearly views the writing of the paper as the basis for determining who should be named as an author. Her advisor on the other hand, may view the research planning, analysing and interpreting of data as the basis for determining if someone should be listed as a co-author. Have a look at this Framework for Discussing Co-Authorship Arrangements as a tool for considering different people’s contributions to a paper. Remember that the norms are different for different disciplines. For most science disciplines single authorship of a paper by a graduate student is not the norm. This is something you may wish to clarify early on in your research. Please take a look at the Seek Assistance page for some more information.

However, Dani may feel that a solo publication is appropriate in her case and may want to make that point clear to her advisor in this meeting. Let’s look at how she could go about that.

By thinking about her options and planning for different responses from her advisor Dani can present herself in a professional manner. In this example Dani has:

  • Worked hard to manage her emotions and keep the conversation positive
  • Expressed herself clearly and explained what is important to her
  • Thought about solutions that could work for both of them

As she negotiates with her advisor Dani may realise that she can’t achieve her desired outcome. However, at least she has already thought about a number of different options that she could live with and learned about the authorship norms for her discipline. Even though trying to work it out with the other person in a conflict is often the best way to resolve the issues, the conversation may not always go as you plan.

People in conflict will often respond emotionally when something is important to them. We don’t know what’s going on for Dani’s advisor but it may be important for him that:

  • He feels respected by his students
  • His contributions to his students’ research is acknowledged

It is also possible that by having a conversation Dani may become aware of new information that changes the way she views the issue.

In this example Dani has:

  • Realised that she didn’t have all the facts about the situation
  • Found out she had made incorrect assumptions about the situation
  • Recognised that other people may have information about the situation that could change things

Now let’s look at how Jason and his advisor discuss a similar situation

In this conversation Jason’s advisor:

  • Explains and refers back to the various stages of the research process
  • Helps Jason to better understand and see the overall input they have both had in the finished paper

Jason’s advisor acknowledges the hard work Jason has put into the final writing stage and that he predominately worked by himself during that stage. However without the other stages and the involvement by both parties throughout, the final writing stage would never have eventuated.

In this video Jason is able to explain to his advisor:

  • Why he feels that solo authorship is warranted for the smaller articles
  • How these articles are different from the main thesis
  • How he independently collected and sourced all the material and data for the smaller articles he has written

Jason listens to Eric and is able to hear from Eric’s perspective:

  • Why he feels the main piece should still be co-authored
  • His reasons and logic behind this

Having this conversation has helped both Jason and Eric uncover new information about what they really want and the reasons why. This conversation leads to a compromise outcome that both Jason and Eric are happy with.

Even having a quick conversation with their advisors could result in Dani and Jason finding out more about the situation than was initially evident. This could make a huge difference to their choices and how they go about deciding what to do next.