Weekly meetings with PhD advisor

“So in the PhD program, there are some rules for success with respect to you and your advisor. Uh, rule number 1 is that you should try to have weekly meetings. If you do not have weekly meetings, there will not be, you know, there will be no pressure on you to get things done, and there will be no pressure on your advisor to read a thing that you’ve don, or to think about you at all. So the best is to have some kind of weekly meeting where you are expected to have a little bit of something done, even just a little bit. Which carries me to rule number 2, which is you should try to do something every week. You should try to bring to your advisor when you see them, because if you are just going to your advisor empty-handed, then neither you, nor your advisor are going to get anything out of that. So if you go to a meeting, you should have a thing at the meeting.”


“I’m getting a Ph.D. in Linguistics, which is the study of how language works in the mind. It has to do with why we sometimes have trouble distinguishing “f” from “s” on the phone, why speakers of Japanese seem to mix up “r” and “l”, and why it’s perfectly reasonable to say “Aluminum bird-feeders sleepily wrestle with simple fractals” but not *”Whose was Mary reading novel?” (cf. “Whose novel was Mary reading?”).

I work in particular on sound things. My most recent work has to do with why the “c” at the end of “electric” sounds like a hard “k”, but turns into a soft “s” in the word “electricity”. There are also words like “divine” (pronounced with “ai” as in “fine”) that change to “divinity” (with an “ih” as in “fit”). This sort of thing happens in a lot of languages, and is rather strange. I believe it’s worth studying for many reasons; in particular, it tells us about how the mind stores words, and therefore has implications for psychology/medicine (e.g. understanding how aphasia works) and for cognitive science in general.”
The informant is studying at the University of Southern California, and is currently in the second year of his Ph.D. program. This folklore was collected by asking the informant what are some common practices of PhD students, or advice that he has received. He learned this from speaking with his PhD advisor and some of the more senior PhD students in his department.
According to the informant, the first rule of being a PhD student is to have weekly meetings with your advisor. Everyone in his department has at least one weekly meeting with their advisor, though it is not a requirement—it is just an unspoken practice of these PhD students, that they learn from each other. Each student likely has his or her own take on the rule: how long the meeting should be; whether the meeting should be made up if the student cannot make it that week; whether the time should be set in stone or can be flexible. That is the variation of the folklore custom.
Another custom of these meetings that the informant speaks of is to always have something to talk about, even it is very small. This increases the connection between the advisor and the student, as the student is required to prove that he has done some work over the week—as work should be done every week—and it allows the advisor to think about the student and the student’s work and provide feedback on what they are working. It is also awkward to walk into an hour meeting with absolutely nothing to talk about except what was discussed the week before. That would just waste the advisor and the student’s time.