You and your PhD supervisor: problems and solutions.

Archenemies or superheroes, saviors or enemies.. As with all relationships, the relationship with one’s PhD supervisors has ups and downs. What makes this relationship successful? What is the role of a PhD supervisor? What are her duties and what are the ones of the supervisee? How do we approach PhD supervisor? How do we tell them something is wrong?

It is quite common to discuss this topic during our social interactions with colleagues and friends. So, why not try sharing our experiences and ideas to identify what are effective solutions to each other’s problems?

Join the Research Hive Scholar during the Doctoral Discussion “You and your PhD supervisor” on the 25th April at 12pm in Jubilee 155. Please, book a place using Eventbrite, so that we can arrange the catering accordingly.


So what is the key to make this relationship work?

First year: meet your supervisors asap and schedule meetings as often as possible.

The first year is the period when supervisors are needed the most. You should not feel the pressure of having to figure out your PhD plans by yourself from day 1. The role of the PhD supervisors is to provide guidance in shaping your research question and research agenda. So, let them help you. The first year is also a good time to understand whether your supervisors are good for you or not. Try to meet them often, and well, if you can’t, consider changing. Try to understand how they like to work and what they expect from you. Then, ask yourself that this expectations and deadline work for your working needs. If not, talk to them and talk to other peers to understand what can you do about it. Lack of contact, insecurity, polarised points of view between two supervisors or between you and them are all signs of a bad supervision: don’t ignore them.

Second year: follow up on your progress and define a clear strategy for the next steps.

Once your status as PhD candidate gets confirmed and you can sail through to the second year, you should not give your supervision relationship for granted. You will probably need to meet your supervisors less often, however you should not lose contact completely. It is time for you to take the lead in your research, but still need to know if you are going to get somewhere by following that path. The supervisors become more of a point of reference to know whether you are losing your mind, or you are on the right track. This is also the time to start talking about the future and your job prospects. What would you like to pursue after the PhD? How can you shape your thesis accordingly? Don’t be afraid of asking questions.

Third year: get them to prepare you for what’s next.

The third year/ final year of your PhD is crucial as a transition point between the end of a massive accomplishment and the beginning of your real career. The role of your supervisor is crucial is bringing out all of your full potential. They should help you understanding what are your professional strength and what you have become during your doctoral studies and help you showing it to your future employees. Usually, the supervisors help you in getting ready for job market interviews and presentations. So: do ask them to give you tips and recommendations on this.  They know you very well at this stage so they can help you targeting the right audience in the most appropriate way.

Throughout the whole period of your doctoral studies, your PhD supervisors should read your work and give you feedback. They should be interested in your progress and monitor it. Remember, though, it is also the supervisee role to respect the deadline, show them progress made, and mostly: ask for help if needed. Shying away from them because you don’t know how to approach them is not going to lead anywhere good.

If you can’t wait until the 25th April and want to read more about this, click here.

Hope to see a lot of you during our events and feel free to share your thoughts with us on what you’d like to hear about regarding supervision.



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