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Where to find a good research mentor or co-author?

Supportive mentorship can improve research behaviours and enhance productivity.

Mentoring is a leadership strategy supporting strengths of the less experienced with the intention of encouraging development. Mentorships are associated with improved behaviours in attitude, health, relationship, motivation and career outcomes (Eby, Allen, Evans, Ng & DuBois, 2008). Analysis of mentoring relationships found beneficial developments in organization of research work, mutual learning, correction of problems encountered, application of research skills and productive communication (Olson & Connelly (1995).

Mentoring relationships are natural, situational, supervisory, formal, team orientated, tele-communicative or co-authorship in structure.

Elements of mentoring strategy include the:

  • type of mentoring

  • size (individual, distance or team)

  • skills, qualifications and experiences

  • strengths and areas for improvement

  • resources

  • time.

Successful methodology

Researchers and their mentors need to discuss their objectives, expectations and roles. Budget analysis and resource evaluation guide realistic expectations for future achievements. Evaluation and feedback of performance establishes accountable and responsible outcomes.

Establishing timeliness with meaningful interactions is essential in the communicative, revision and

reviewing stages of a confidant relationship.

Plans need to be devised and reviewed (3-6 monthly). Time schedule for meetings, emails, Skype calls or SMS correspondence maintain momentum and can strengthen the relationship. Queries need to be diligently attended with and replies made within reasonable response times.

Considerations should include leave and nomination of an alternative main supervisor if the need occurs.

1. Why do you need a graduate or postgraduate mentor?


- Solve research problems

- Design and conduct experiments

- Interpret data

- Laboratory access

- Develop general technical proficiency

- Assist with retreats or grant applications

- Communicate your work

- Maintain ethical standards

- Acknowledge your contribution through authorship

- Interact professionally with other scientists


- Research budget management

- Equipment acquisition

- Speaking at a conference

- Successful grant writing with authorship publishment

- Personnel management

- Support your science career

2. What are the options?

- Government initiatives

- Career training programs

- APA mentoring programs

- Mentor award winners

- University, college or research institutions

- Judges from a previous science competitions

- Summer research programs

- Authors of a journal article in your field

- Peer mentoring group

- Research scientists with good industry reputation


3. Where do you find contact details and information?


- Pre-doctoral mentors

- Researchers with common interests

- Peers (two of more years more experience in career)

Academic and professional groups

- University career development and academic program listings

- Clubs — Online journal clubs (Twitter, Facebook, Gmail+)


- University departments

- Workplaces

- Conferences


- Undergraduate research databases

- Student job sites

- Online Websites


4. What to look for?

Looking for the research mentor or co-author requires diligence. You will need to establish your hard working initiatives with realistic goals to distinguish yourself as suitable.

The National Research Mentoring Network Program introduces program goals for scientific research mentorships. When seeking a supportive program, they could be beneficial as indicators for benchmarking.

5. How do you make a plan?

Undergraduate plan


Identify if there is an Academic Coordinator or Graduate Research Coordinator that could be helpful.

Make a ranked list of faculty members and their contact details associated with your research.

Research the biographies and publications of potential mentors.

Search for principal investigators (PIs) who match your research interests.

Check for University mentorships/fellowships - associated project guidelines.

Innovated research may warrant a legal consultation prior to commencing mentor/authorship.


Investigate opportunities for a meeting or conference presentation.

If a beginning researcher, determine possible contributions to writing and if there will be identification in authorship.

Email current and former students of potential mentors.

Visit the lab.

Introductory email:

- Prepare a draft.

- Identify the recipient by their academic title.

- Introduce yourself in a short summary.

- Express and associate your interest in their work.

- Seek assistance with any questions you have.

- Ask for a meeting (if the person is unavailable, ask to meet with someone appropriate in the department).

Postgraduate plan

Find the opportunity

Identify your career goal - industry, research or academic.

Consider research topic, gender, ethnic diversity, grant offering and team size when choosing co-authors.

Regard co-authorship mentoring or fellowship with colleagues and associate members of governing bodies.

Liaise and network

Investigate reputation and previous publications.

Research colleagues and members of universities, associations, institutes, societies and organisations.

Use social media to communicate - members with reputable online profiles.

Experienced recipients of grants and awards.

Professional correspondence email:

- Prepare a draft.

- Introduce yourself with a summary.

- Identify your level of academic study (PhD, Masters, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate).

- Outline your postgraduate research qualifications (Master's degree by research, Doctor of Philosophy, Professional Doctorate).

- Give details of your previous publications.

- Show interest in co-authorship or credit

- Explain work, research and philosophical approach.

- List potential benefits of collaborating academic and research strengths.


6. What can influence the type of mentor you get?


Respectful, clear and brief approach with email correspondence.

If the mentor accepts undergraduates for research.

The area of research the principal investigator (PI) studies.

Availability in hours/credits for the research.

Personal academic credentials.

Opportunity and space.

Research funding.


The information you are prepared to share about the research to gain interest and collaboration.

Advice from research institutes.

Your plan to build a supportive mentoring network.

Mature, clear and personal approach.

Identification of the beneficial relationship in collaboration, preference in authorship identity and independence in work.

The post-graduate mentors your pre-doctorate mentors know.

Online search for researchers with similar interest (using social media, clinical trials registry, conference speakers, workshops, professional associations and journal authors).

Researchers in your own peer group.

Costs of collaboration.

Mentors available in the development of research societies, conferences and programs.


7. What should you consider together prior to the research?

Discuss which methods of communication are appropriate: email, phone or SMS.

Are there any apps that may be useful?

Make meeting agendas (especially if there is a team involved).

Create SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound).

Keep a journal for documentation of involvement recording important information (roles, plans, findings and progress).

Guidelines for authorship (authorship, credit and responsibilities).

Best methods to deal with a difficult or conflicting situation in the relationship.


Suggested Reading


Eby, L. T., Allen, T. D., Evans, S. C., Ng, T., & DuBois, D. (2008). Does Mentoring Matter? A Multidisciplinary Meta-Analysis Comparing Mentored and Non-Mentored Individuals. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 72(2), 254–267. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2007.04.005

Olson, R. K., & Connelly, L. M. (1995). Mentoring through predoctoral fellowships to enhance research productivity. Journal of Professional Nursing, 15(5), 270–275. doi:10.1016/S8755-7223(05)80007-9


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