Working Remotely with Ph.D. Students, Tips from Janet Hankin, Wayne State University

SWS Responds to COVID-19

Working Remotely with Ph.D. Students

Janet Hankin, Professor

Department  of Sociology, Wayne State University

Contact information:

I have been working remotely with an Arab student who was denied a visa to re-enter the United States.  Over the past several years, I was able to advise him about writing a proposal, creating a Qualtrics questionnaire, negotiating the Institutional Review Board application, collecting data on attitudes about organ donation, running SPSS data analysis, writing, and defending the dissertation.  The student finished all requirements on 5/3/5/20 and was awarded a Ph.D.  Here are my suggestions:

  1. Communicate frequently with your student by email, Skype, or phone. This reduces anxiety, provides social support, and encourages them to complete tasks in a timely manner. When giving instructions, put them in writing and make sure they received it.  Documents have a way of disappearing into cyberspace these days.  Instructions about how to proceed need to be short and very clear.
  2. Keep careful track of drafts received from the student and revisions you send back. I used a system of dates and initials to keep things straight.
  3. In addition to using email correspondence, we met over Skype. It was a challenge given the seven-hour difference in time zones. After each meeting, I summarized the Skype conversation in an email to make sure my instructions were clear.
  4. If the research needs IRB approval, identify a staff person at your IRB to help you expedite the submission. My student had to receive export control approval, sign offs on English and Arabic versions of the questionnaire, permission to administer Qualtrics online questionnaire, and approvals from his Arabic university and mine. The research was about willingness to donate organs. It was determined to be exempt, as no identifiers were used and it was an attitude questionnaire.
  5. In terms of the statistical analysis, I wrote out how to do factor analysis, OLS regression and logistic regression. The dependent, independent variables, and control variables were clearly defined. I asked the student to check recoded variables against the original variables using cross-tabs. I had a copy of the data file so I could check his work.
  6. I created a template for his power point presentation for the dissertation defense. He practiced his talk over Skype with me and I gave him suggestions.
  7. The defense was conducted over Skype. The Associate Dean of the Graduate School permitted us to conduct the oral in this manner. We had some broadband issues, but we could hear everyone.  To reduce stress, I gave him a list of questions I would ask and questions from my colleagues.

Hope these ideas help.  Please contact me with any questions.  Stay safe and well.  Janet