Choosing a Major Professor

In other words:  Should I choose Dr. Allen as a major professor?

This is abstracted from the “Doctoral Committee” page to make it more consumable and create a first stop for potential doctoral students looking for an advisor.

If you do not agree these guidelines, you should explore a different major professor. Choosing a major professor is a long term commitment for both the student and faculty member.  This is the most important decision of your doctoral program!

There are a few major criteria that must be considered, discussed and agreed upon before I agree to serve as your major professor.  Much of this might be classified as philosophy as easily as criteria, but it’s outlined here to make an everything as clear as possible.

These are MY criteria. The university and/or other major
may have more strict or lenient guidelines.  

Criteria #1: Career Goals of Advisees   

I am best able to advise students whose career goals are aimed at the professorate in a national or international university.


There are two distinct pathways that you must choose between at the very beginning of your doctoral program.   You cannot have both career options and be well prepared for either career option:

A.  Industry/Education (Scholar-Practitioners): The role of a professor at a research university (academic scholar) is very different that the goals of a scholar-practitioner.  Doctoral program certainly produce outstanding scholar-practitioners, but there is little need for extensive mentorship in the professorate.  If this is your chosen path, you need to choose a different major professor.

The rebuttal: But, you have advised scholar-practitioners in the past.  You are correct.  The workload of the university has changed, the nature of the preparation needed for career choices, and hiring requirements for newly minted doctoral student have changed dramatically in the last five years.

B.  Academics (Scholars):  It is my personal opinion that the goal of a doctoral program is to create scholars (professors).   It is the goal of the doctoral program to produce thought leaders in their field that can guide through research scholarship. If you focus is a career in the professorate –  let’s discuss your doctoral program.

Please be aware that these are VERY different career paths and the preparation in the doctoral program also differs. As a faculty mentor of future professors, I am better able to guide my doctoral advisees through the very different pursuit of the professorate.

This study involves not only coursework, but publications, advising, teaching, and professional service – the big three of the professorate:  research, teaching and service scholarship. The choice of universities may be varied:  regional university, state universities, or research university. Take a look at the types of universities from the Carnegie Classifications:

Doctorate-granting Universities. Includes institutions that award at least 20 doctoral degrees per year (excluding doctoral-level degrees that qualify recipients for entry into professional practice, such as the JD, MD, PharmD, DPT, etc.). Excludes Special Focus Institutions and Tribal Colleges.

RU/VH: Research Universities (very high research activity)
RU/H: Research Universities (high research activity)
DRU: Doctoral/Research Universities

Master’s Colleges and Universities. Generally includes institutions that award at least 50 master’s degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees per year. (Some institutions above the master’s degree threshold are included among Baccalaureate Colleges, and some below the threshold are included among Master’s Colleges and Universities; see Technical Details.) Excludes Special Focus Institutions and Tribal Colleges.

Master’s/L: Master’s Colleges and Universities (larger programs)
Master’s/M: Master’s Colleges and Universities (medium programs)
Master’s/S: Master’s Colleges and Universities (smaller programs)

Remember, this is a very specific career choice.   It is my goal to have you prepared as a second-year professor as you exit your doctoral program.

Criteria #2: Research Compatibility (beginning Fall 2016)

At this time, I can only advise students with similar research interest. To best prepare students for the professorate, it is important to have faculty and student engagement in each other’s research, teaching, and service scholarship projects as part of the professorate mentoring process.  This compatibility and common professional interest will help insure long-term collegiality as students join the rank of scholars.

Criteria #3: Dr. Allen’s Responsibilities (Student’s Expectations) 

  • I will act as a buffer between you and the committee.
  • You and the major professor must talk and come to an agreement before talking to other committee members. If you seek advice from each of your committee members you may receive four different suggestions.  Instead, you and the major professor should come to a decision, then present the idea(s) to the committee.
  • I will advise you on courses in your degree plan and the direction of your dissertation. 
  • I will help you as negotiate the doctoral process.
  • I cannot, in most cases, be the subject matter expert for your dissertation. One of the exciting outcomes of the dissertation is that you will become the expert on your dissertation topic.
  • I will not choose a topic for you. You should choose a topic of interest as early in your course of study as possible. The first day of your first class is not too early to begin investigating your research interest.  Note:  I personally work on 8 to 10 topics at a time.  These dissertation must support the research areas listed under the Research Overview page.
  • I will act an informed guide during the doctoral process.   Though you may not like the advice of the major professor, the advice was hard gained through their experience as a practitioner, teacher, and researcher and it should not be taken lightly.  

Criteria #4: Student’s Responsibilities (Dr. Allen’s Expectations)

  • You must take satisfactory progress toward the completion of your doctoral program.
  • Additionally, read the department doctoral handbook and UNT Graduate Catalog.  They contain important information for the completion of the your doctoral program.
  • As soon as possible, you should develop aaction plan for the completion of your doctoral studies. This should include courses to be taken, examinations and major steps in the doctoral process. This will help you to plan your degree program.  You can fill-in-the-blanks as you progress in your program.
  • You are responsible for both completing courses and making progress on your dissertation. The major professor will not, and cannot, push you to complete your doctoral studies. 
  • You are responsible for ALL deadlines and paper work.
  • The statistics, research, and measurement courses that you complete, as a requirement of the degree program, may not sufficiently prepare you for your dissertation. For this reason, you must become an expert on the statistical needs ofyour dissertation. This may mean additional classes in the areas of statistics, research, and measurement, or self-study of a topic.
  • As a future scholar, you must maintain active participation on research team(s).  These research teams are outcome oriented toward a decided team goal.

Criteria #5: Scholarship before doctoral candidacy (ABD)

  • Part of becoming a member of a community of scholars is to develop appropriate professional norms and values. Students make a commitment to their professional development and intellectual growth. Advisees will develop increasing levels of professional independence and responsibility, transition from student to colleague, become involved in out-of-class interaction with faculty, fellow students and others on issues relevant to our field and your goals, and become considerably involved in professional activities of various kinds.  The following MINIMUM expectation are NOT negotiable:
  • Professional Development: Attend a minimum of 30 contact hours of professional development in scholarship. (e.g., colloquiums sponsored by the department or college, national workshops, dissertation proposals or defense within the department)
  • Research Publications: Two published refereed article for publication prior to admission to doctoral candidacy (ABD status) as one of the first three authors. These publications should reflect your ability to expand scholarship in your field of study. By publishing an article, refereed or non-refereed, you will enhance your future career choices. Your committee and graduate faculty will certainly be willing to help you in this endeavor.  Note:  I ALWAYS have articles that I need help publishing, and would welcome the opportunity to help you publish.
  • Scholarly Presentations: Two scholarly presentations at professional conferences (professional home), as one of the first three authors, in your area of research interest.
  • Teaching scholarship:  Two contributions as a primary or secondary instructor at university level teaching.  One of these experience should be under my direct supervision.
  • Service Scholarship: Two experiences of service scholarship (serve on a departmental/college/university committee, professional board, professional elected or appointed office, or as a journal field reviewer).

Dr. Allen’s Academic Year

My normal academic year spans from the first day of Fall classes (approximately August 15th) until the last day of Spring classes (approximately May 15th).  University faculty are on nine-month contracts.  Though I do work during the summer, it is a separate schedule that parallels specific project timelines
  • Do not expect to have any meetings during the summer.

Scheduling Time

I have tried every possible way to have an open meeting calendar.  I now schedule the meeting and send an electronic invitation.
  • I keep my own appointment calendar.
  • I do travel extensively at different time during the year.
  • We may have to cancel a meeting – 24 hours is much appreciated.
  • We can arrange web conferencing tools and conference calls as needed.  Face-to-Face is alway most productive
  • You are welcome to schedule weekly, monthly, or any type of systematic meeting. It is  better to set a schedule so we have maximum flexibility in time and deadline for work completion.

Other Thoughts on the Committee and the Dissertation 

  • Do not expect to have any committee meetings during: the summer (many faculty are not on contract), the first few weeks of a semester, or the last few weeks of a semester. Committee members are very busy, or not available during these times.
  • An “Application for Approval of Investigation Involving the Use of Human Subjects” form must be completed and approved by the University of North Texas Institutional Review Board BEFORE data is collected by the student.
  • The dissertation must be related to your major ! ! !
  • It is my STRONG suggestion that you utilize a professional dissertation editor before proposal defense and final dissertation defense.  I personally use one for all of my professional research publicationsThis is a financial commitment, but one that will pay for itself through the time, aggravation, and sanity that you save.
  • For fall graduation — plan on an early October defense.  For spring graduation — plan for a early March defense.   These are not graduate school deadlines, they are “workable” deadlines.  This is an often asked question.
  • Plan to publish your dissertation in a refereed publication.  It is a wonderful avenue for you to continue your professional career and further your professional work with your major professor.
  • Enjoy your final defense! This is your opportunity to share your hard work and defend your conclusions.  A well-developed dissertation is a pleasure to defend and disseminate.

*** If these guidelines are not acceptable, you must choose another major professor. Choosing a major professor or committee member is a long term commitment for both the student and faculty members. ***