Setting Expectations for Working Together

When working with faculty, either on their projects or on your own independent project, it is important that you and the faculty member clarify the ground rules for working together.

Consider the following when discussing expectations:

  • Communication: What is the best way to communicate about the project? What mode or combination of modes is preferred (in-person, email, Zoom, phone)? How often will you communicate about a project? Can check-ins be regularized?
  • Duration of work together: How long will this project take? If the position is a research assistantship, what is the hourly commitment? When does the project start and end?
  • Training: What training is required for the research, such as responsible conduct in research, human subjects training, animal models training, environmental health and safety? Make sure you understand the expectation for what you need to do before you begin working on a project. 
  • Information sharing and storage: What are the parameters for sharing the information generated by the project? Should data be centrally saved or stored? What are the methods for securing data generated?
  • Troubleshooting: Who else can you go to for help?
  • Other commitments: What other commitments do you, the student, have in the semester, academic year etc.? What commitments does your faculty mentor have? Consider courses, lab sections, extracurricular activities, family-time, breaks and holidays. Set parameters of working together on a project to respect important obligations.
  • Deliverables and acknowledging contributions (if applicable): Would the project result in a publication? Does it help support the design of a course or program? Is the project part of a larger research project of the faculty member, postdoc or graduate student? How would contributions to a project be acknowledged? What level of contribution would constitute authorship?

Space for the unexpected: Through the course of working together, you or your faculty mentor may experience unexpected challenges (related and unrelated to the project) that may impact progress on a project. It’s important that when setting expectations that both acknowledge in your communication plan that the unexpected may happen and that you’ll work together to figure out the next steps.