Doctoral advisor selection processes in science, math, and engineering programs in the United States

Mayra S. Artiles, David B. Knight, Holly M. Matusovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although advising relationships are key for doctoral student success, little research has addressed how they form. Understanding the formation of advising relationships can help contextualize their later development and ultimately support a student’s decision to persist in the doctorate. To understand relationship formation, the purpose of this qualitative study is to identify and describe the types of advisor–advisee selection processes that exist in engineering, science, and math doctoral programs and examine patterns across disciplines within those fields. We conducted interviews with doctoral program directors and engaged in document analysis of graduate student handbooks from 55 doctoral programs in the aforementioned fields in high research institutions across the United States. Using principal–agent theory as a theoretical lens, our findings showed that engineering programs tend to decentralize the advisor selection process by funding students across different funding sources upon enrollment. Contrariwise, science and math programs tended to fund all students in a cohort from a common funding source, which allowed students to have more time to gather information, meet, and select an advisor. These findings also show important nuances when comparing graduate education in these programs that directly impact the doctoral student experience and reiterates the necessity to study these fields separately.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number6
JournalInternational Journal of STEM Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023


  • Advisor selection
  • Doctoral students
  • Graduate education
  • Qualitative secondary analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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