Choosing a Major Professor

Another way to phrase it:  Should I choose Dr. Allen as a major professor?

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 and guidelines.
The university and/or other major professors
may have more strict or lenient guidelines.  


I typically only accept ten (10) doctoral students at a time, plus four to six committee memberships. This is a good UPPER ratio that provides me and the doctoral students fantastic interaction and a supportive cohort of students

Is there a chance you will accept more, maybe – but only in very special circumstances where there is an exact match in criteria #1 and criteria #2

Who are Dr. Allen’s Advisees?

Criteria #1: Research Compatibility 

My broad areas of interest in Information Science:

  • Knowledge Management
  • Human-centered Information Literacy

Your dissertation research should relate to one of these broad area to best connect our research.

At this time, I can only advise students with similar broad research interests. This allows me to best prepare students for the professorate.  It is important to have faculty and student engaged 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 academic scholars.  Please spend time on my research page to help you better understand my research areas.

Here are four questions that I’m currently pondering and exploring:

  1. How do we foster wisdom in individuals?  What are the factors necessary to move a person or group of people from knowledgeable to wise.
  2. Knowledge Economy: How do we develop individuals in a an international knowledge economy? What will this mean for employee success?
  3. Transference of knowledge between learning and performance in workforce settings. Specifically looking at the role of self-learning, personal learning networks, problem-based learning, and mass  customization in knowledge acquisition and transfer.
  4. Digital presence of scholars:  This is an ongoing area of interest to assist current and future faculty to understand this critical are of profession work in our global scholarly workforce.
  5. Knowledge Workspace:  How do we best organize “anytime-anyplace knowledge workspaces” of the future.

Criteria #2: Career Goals of Advisees   

I am best able to advise students whose career goals are aimed toward 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. The preparation within a doctoral program should also be very different from the very beginning of your program. As a faculty mentor of future professors, I am better able to guide my doctoral advisees through the very different pursuit of the professorate.

You cannot have both career options and be well prepared:

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

This career path requires that you work in an apprenticeship format (see criteria #5) under the direction of your major professor and become engaged in activities within the departments and university including all aspect of teaching, research and university scholarship.

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

Master’s Colleges and Universities:
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.  

Industry/Education (Scholar-Practitioners): The role of a professor at a research university (academic scholar) is very different than the goals of a scholar-practitioner. Doctoral programs certainly produce outstanding scholar-practitioners, but there is little need for extensive mentorship in the professorate.  If this is your chosen path, you may be want to strongly consider a different major professor.  My expectations are that you will meet all of the criteria as outlined.  

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.  It’s possible that it is a good match for you…let’s talk.

Nobody can promise you a job or career in academia or industry.   I will my best to prepare you, as a scholar, for the job market.

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 and then present the agreed upon 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 7 to 9 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 make 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 paperwork.
  • 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 of your dissertation. This may mean additional classes in the areas of statistics, research, and measurement, or self-study of a topic.

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 (or long conference papers) prior to admission to doctoral candidacy 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 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).

This outcome will look very similar to these portfolios.

Will I get a job?

There are no promises attached to any degree.  The best asset you have from a doctoral program is YOU – not the degree.  I will do my very best to prepare you as a scholar (the purpose of any doctoral program).  This requires a clear goals, and a shared purpose between the student and major professor.

“To talk in public, to think in solitude, to read and to hear, to inquire and answer inquiries, is the the business of a scholar.”   – Samuel Johnson

Simply going through the coursework and dissertation, in my opinion, is not sufficient to prepare any students as a scholar.  Doctoral students need to work with student and faculty colleagues in a rich academic environment that includes the classroom, research teams, professional development, and research scholarship.

Dr. Allen’s Academic Year

My normal academic year spans from the first day of Fall term (approximately third week of August) until the last day of Spring classes (approximately second week of May).

University faculty are on nine-month contracts.  Though I do work during the summer, it is a separate schedule that parallels specific project timelines – and changes every summer. Basically, in parallel with the SageResearch Tribe (research and advising break during July and August)

Do not expect to have any meetings during the summer.

Scheduling Time

I have tried every possible way to have an open meeting calendar over the years.  I now schedule the meeting and send an electronic invitation.

FAQ: 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 publications
    • This 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 an 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. ***