What are the characteristics and goals of an effective mentor?

Cheerleader, Counselor, Coach, & Critic

According to Spillet and Moisiewicz (2004), the mentor must serve a supportive role to nurture, encourage, and advise students through the process while simultaneously challenging students to develop their research and critical thinking skills. Cheerleader and Counselor are identified as supportive roles that an effective mentor serves in the lives of their graduate students which are balanced by the challenging roles of Coach and Critic. In evaluating the effectiveness of your mentor, Spillet and Moisiewicz operationalize the characteristics of each of these varied roles of the ideal mentor as:


  • Available and accessible
  • Makes the effort to build a trusting relationship
  • Encourages and recognizes the effort


  • Shares strategies which serve to build motivation
  • Normalizes experiences


  • Directs skill development
  • Helps to maintain focus on the big picture


  • Provides clear, concise, concrete feedback

Personal development, professional development, emotional support, and skill-building

In a more recent examination of the characteristics of effective doctoral research mentoring, Gruber et al. (2020) identify personal and professional development, emotional support, and skill-building as necessary components of best mentoring practices. Some of the primary mentoring tasks identified by Gruber et al. for each of the mentoring milestones include the following:

Personal Development

  • Manage self-derived expectations for perfection
  • Learning time management skills

Professional Development

  • Acquire depth of knowledge for one’s chosen research topic
  • Promote autonomy in the development of the research manuscript

Emotional Support

  • Management of doubt in one’s research proficiency
  • Facilitate healthy choices that balance personal and professional goals

Skill building

  • Competency in hypothesis development and writing
  • Proficiency in conducting and interpreting statistical analyses


The services provided by Statistical Sanity Consulting are built on the premise that effective mentoring is difficult to achieve and often requires a team effort. Call for your free consultation to find out how you can benefit from the addition of a virtual mentor who is supportive and proactive. Dr. Campenni incorporates her knowledge of the benefits of mindful awareness to assist students in gaining the focused attention and balanced perspective that is needed to complete a thesis or dissertation.



Gruber, J., Borelli, J. L., Prinstein, M. J., Clark, L. A., Davila, J., Gee, D. G., Klein, D. N., Levenson, R. W., Mendle, J., Olatunji, B. O., Rose, G. L., Saxbe, D., & Weinstock, L. M. (2020). Best practices in research mentoring in clinical science. Journal of Abnormal Psychology129(1), 70–81. https://doi.org/10.1037/abn0000478.supp

Spillet, M.A., & Moisiewicz, K.A. (2004). Cheerleader, coach, counselor, critic: Support and challenge roles of the dissertation advisor. College Student Journal, 38, 246-256.


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Estelle Campenni, Ph.D.

Dr. Campenni has served as the primary academic mentor of 50+ master's theses and doctoral dissertations.

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