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Guidelines for Good Practice in Graduate Education

A primary goal of graduate education at the University of Missouri is to instill in each student an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent judgment, academic rigor and intellectual honesty. It is the joint responsibility of faculty and students to work together to foster these ends through partnerships which encourage freedom of inquiry, demonstrate personal and professional integrity, and foster mutual respect.

Advisers, committees and the graduate experience

In general, graduate student progress toward educational goals at MU is directed by an adviser in consultation with the student's graduate committee. The adviser and the individuals on the committee provide intellectual guidance in support of the scholarly/creative activities of graduate students. The adviser and committee members also are charged with the responsibility of evaluating a graduate student's performance in scholarly/creative activities. The graduate student, the adviser and committee members comprise the basic unit of graduate education at an institution. It is the quality, breadth and depth of interaction within this unit that largely determines the outcome of the graduate experience.

A community based on ethics

High-quality graduate education depends upon the professional and ethical conduct of the participants. Academic program directors of graduate studies, faculty members and graduate students have complementary responsibilities in the maintenance of academic standards and the creation of a high quality graduate program. Excellence in graduate education is achieved when both faculty and students are highly motivated, possess the academic and professional backgrounds necessary to perform at the highest level, and are sincere in their desire to see each other succeed.

An environment of professionalism

Graduate students must be viewed as early-stage professionals, not as students whose interest is guided by the desire to complete the degree.

Graduate students

Graduate students have made career choices and must be viewed and treated as the next generation of professionals. To accomplish this, it is essential that graduate students:

  • Conduct themselves in a mature, professional, ethical and civil manner in all interactions with faculty and staff in accordance with the accepted standards of the discipline and MU policies governing discrimination and harassment.
  • Recognize that the faculty adviser provides the intellectual and instructional environment in which the student prepares a plan of study, may be involved with research, and that he or she may, through access to teaching and research funds, also provide the student with financial support.
  • Expect that their research results, with appropriate recognition, may be incorporated into progress reports, summary documents, applications for continuation for funding, and similar documents authored by the faculty adviser, to the extent that the student's research is related to the faculty adviser's research program and the grants which support that research.
  • Recognize that faculty have broad discretion to allocate their own time and other resources in ways which are academically productive.
  • Recognize that the faculty adviser is responsible for monitoring the accuracy, creativity, validity and integrity of the student's research. Careful, well-conceived research reflects favorably on the student, the faculty adviser, the degree program and MU.
  • Exercise the highest integrity in taking examinations; completing master's and doctoral projects; and/or collecting, analyzing and presenting research data in theses, dissertations and presentations.
  • As applicable to the student's degree program, acknowledge the contributions of the faculty adviser and other members of the research team to the student's work in all publications and conference presentations; acknowledgment may mean co-authorship when that is appropriate.
  • Recognize that in some disciplines, the faculty adviser will determine when a body of work is ready for publication, exhibition or performance and will determine an acceptable venue because the faculty adviser bears responsibility for overseeing the performance of the student and ensuring the validity of any applicable research.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of the faculty adviser's professional activities and research before presentations or publication, in accordance with existing practices and policies of the discipline.
  • Take primary responsibility to inform themselves of regulations and policies governing their graduate studies at MU.
  • Recognize that faculty and staff have many professional responsibilities in addition to graduate education.


Correspondingly, it is imperative that faculty:

  • Interact with students in a professional and civil manner in accordance with the accepted standards of the discipline and the University of Missouri's policies governing discrimination and harassment.
  • Impartially evaluate student performance regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or other criteria that are not germane to academic evaluation.
  • Serve on graduate student committees without regard to the religion, race, gender, sexual orientation or nationality of the graduate student.
  • Prevent personal rivalries with colleagues from interfering with their duties as graduate advisers, committee members, directors of graduate studies or colleagues.
  • Excuse themselves from serving as advisers on graduate committees or supervising assistantship work when there is a familial or other relationship between the faculty member and the student that could result in a conflict of interest.
  • Acknowledge any student contributions to research and/or creative activity presented at conferences, in professional publications or in applications for copyrights and patents.
  • Not impede a graduate student's progress and completion of his/her degree in order to benefit from the student's proficiency as a teaching or research assistant.
  • Create, in the classroom, lab or studio, supervisory relations with students that stimulate and encourage students to learn creatively and independently.
  • Have a clear understanding with graduate students about their specific academic, creative activity and/or research responsibilities, including time lines for completion of comprehensive examinations, research and the thesis or dissertation, as applicable.
  • Provide oral and written comments and evaluations of each student's work in a timely manner.
  • Assist the director of graduate studies in an annual review of graduate student progress.
  • Discuss laboratory, academic program and authorship policy with graduate students in advance of entering into collaborative projects.
  • Ensure an absence of coercion with regard to the participation of graduate students as human research subjects in their faculty advisers' research.
  • Refrain from requesting students to do personal work (mowing lawns, baby-sitting, typing papers, etc.) with or without appropriate compensation.
  • Familiarize themselves with policies that affect their graduate students.

Graduate students and their advisers

Graduate education is structured around the generation and transmission of knowledge at the highest level. In many cases, graduate students depend on faculty advisers to assist them in identifying and gaining access to financial and/or intellectual resources that support their graduate programs. In addition, faculty advisers and academic program administrators must apprise students of the job market so that students can develop realistic expectations for the outcomes of their studies.

In some academic units the student's specific adviser may change during the course of the student's program, either because of faculty or student wishes. The role of advising may also change and become a mentoring relationship.

The reward of finding a faculty adviser implies that the student has achieved a level of excellence and sophistication in the field or exhibits sufficient promise to merit the more intensive interest, instruction and counsel of faculty.

To this end, it is important that graduate students:

  • Devote an appropriate amount of time and energy toward achieving academic excellence and earning the advanced degree.
  • Be aware of time constraints and other demands imposed on faculty members and program staff.
  • Take the initiative to ask questions that promote understanding of the academic subjects and advances in the field.
  • Communicate regularly with faculty advisers, especially in matters related to research and progress within the graduate program and with any teaching responsibilities.

Correspondingly, faculty advisers should:

  • Provide clear maps of all requirements each student must meet, including course work, languages, research tools, examinations, and thesis or dissertation, teaching/laboratory assistantships, and delineating the amount of time expected to complete each step.
  • Evaluate student progress and performance in regular and informative ways consistent with the practice in the field.
  • Help students develop interpretive, writing, oral and quantitative skills, in accordance with the expectations of the discipline and the specific degree program.
  • Assist graduate students in the development of grant writing skills, where appropriate.
  • Take reasonable measures to ensure that graduate students who initiate thesis or dissertation research/creative activity do so in a timely fashion, regardless of the overall demands of assistantships in the laboratory, studio, or classroom.
  • When appropriate, encourage graduate students to participate in professional meetings or display their work in public forums and exhibitions.
  • Stimulate in each graduate student an appreciation of professional skills they will be required to master in their respective disciplines, (i.e., teaching, administration, research, writing and creativity).
  • Create an ethos of collegiality so that learning takes place within a community of scholars.
  • Prepare students to be competitive for employment, which includes portraying a realistic view of the field and the job market and making use of professional contacts and associations for the benefit of their students, as appropriate.
  • Create an environment of the highest ethical standards and insist that students behave ethically in all their professional activities.
  • Discuss risks that students might encounter while participating in research activities and exert reasonable effort to minimize risks. Faculty advisers are encouraged to consult the following resources for assistance:

In academic units, faculty advisers support the academic promise of graduate students in their programs. In some cases, academic advisers are assigned to entering graduate students to assist them in academic advising and other matters. In other cases, students select faculty advisers in accordance with the disciplinary interest or research expertise of faculty. Advising is variant in its scope and breadth and may be accomplished in many ways.

A student's academic performance and a faculty member's scholarly interest may coincide during the course of instruction and research/creative activity/performance. As the faculty-graduate student relationship matures and intensifies, direct collaborations may involve the sharing of authorship or right to intellectual property developed in research or other creative activity. Such collaborations are encouraged and are a desired outcome of the mentoring process.

Ways of communicating

It is understood that the standards of mentoring may differ by academic program, depending on the degrees students are pursuing and the availability of time working professionals in communities outside Columbia have to consult with their advisers. Nevertheless, it is recommended that advisement, consultation and mentoring be nurtured via electronic means if they cannot be nurtured in person.

Changes in advisers and committees

It is further understood that academic programs will establish appropriate policies and practices to assist students whose major adviser is no longer able to serve in that capacity, as well as students who need additions or deletions to their committees. At the same time, academic programs whose funding of graduate students is generated primarily from research grants need to work with faculty advisers and their graduate students to ensure that the students will understand the importance of completing their research commitments.

History of the guidelines

This document was approved for distribution on Jan. 23, 2001, by the University of Missouri Graduate Faculty Senate. It was adopted from documents shared among the following: The Graduate School at North Carolina State University; the Office of Graduate Studies at the University of Southern California; the Graduate School at the University of California-Davis; the Graduate College and Graduate Council at the University of Arizona ("Mentoring: the Faculty-Graduate Student Relationship," Cusanovich and Gilliland, 1991); The University of Nebraska Medical Center; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln; the Graduate Council at the University of Oregon.