Supervisory relationships

Many factors need to be considered as you begin your post-graduate research. Some are listed below. It is useful to consider all of these as you work out what you expect of yourself and your supervisory relationship. Clarity may help you to avoid personal and professional pitfalls and to maximise the opportunities of this time in your life. In summary:

  1. Know yourself.
  2. Understand the supervisor's role and their style.
  3. Then negotiate.

Knowing yourself

  • Why this thesis and why now?
    • What motivates you? Is it the topic, long term career plans, the colleagues, the status?
  • What strengths do you bring to it?
    • Experience as researcher? Enthusiasm? Life skills? Determination? Good supports?
  • What skills do you need to develop to do it?
    • Academic skills e.g. statistics? Writing? Library use? IT?
    • Personal skills e.g. managing procrastination, perfectionism, realistic expectations of self/ others etc.
  • What do you know about the 'working conditions' for post-graduates?
    • Know the University requirements for post- graduate research. Learn the arrangements that apply in your Department e.g. room, computer, travel etc.
    • Use the University Student Support Services.
    • Network with other students, academics.
  • How realistic are you about the thesis?
    • What do you expect its impact to be? e.g. How many theses win Nobel Prizes? How many people will read your thesis? vs your published articles?
  • What about the rest of your life?
    • Have you allowed time for family, friends, health, fitness, fun, finances, accommodation

Negotiating the supervisory relationship

  • What contributes to an effective working relationship with your supervisor?
  • What to consider in meeting with potential supervisors. Note: This is to be a professional relationship. It assumes you each have:
    • Roles and responsibilities.
    • Individual strengths and weaknesses
  • Why this supervisor?
    • What can this supervisor assist you with? (vs what do you want - as you may need to go to others for some things).
    • What does this supervisor expect from you?
    • What might this supervisor need to know about you? (See the questions over the page)
  • What to aim for? Clarity in:
    • meeting times
    • purpose of meetings
    • expectations about what will be covered at meetings, scheduling of work over time
    • membership of supervisory panel
    • contributions of other panel members
    • communication between meetings (written, drop-ins, etc).
  • What to prepare yourself for?
    • Difficulty of negative feedback.
    • The loneliness of the marathon runner.
    • Losing passion and focus for the thesis.
    • Struggles with methodology and results and writing.