Friday, October 14, 2011

Managing your PhD supervisor

On reading the book "How To Get a PhD?" by Estelle Phillips and Derek Pugh, I obtained valuable advice about how to be a good research student and also a better supervisor of research students myself. Just thought I would share some of what I learned.One of the fabulous chapter in this book is Managing Your Supervisor. Can a research student manage their supervisor?

Well yes. According to Phillips and Pugh, you can. You are the one who set the tone for meetings as a research student. You are the one that helps the supervisor to know how often to meet.

As a research student, you must in your first meeting with your supervisor, discover what they expect of you. So you must ask them what are their expectations. Also, you as the student must also indicate and discuss what you expect to get out of the supervising experience. Raise your concerns in the first meeting and discuss them with your supervisor. Discuss what you fear about the experience. Discuss what you have heard from other research students that you do not like and ask about how the supervisor can help you avoid those pitfalls. Ask them their opinion and what is the ideal research student like?

As the research student, you are the one that directs the discussions had with your supervisor. You do so by the questions you ask and the concerns you share.

Ask questions such as:
  • how regular can we meet?
  • how often must I send/give a report on my progress?
  • what documents do I need to submit and by when?

Ensure that you and your supervisor set deadlines and that you never leave your meetings with your supervisor without knowing what you must do next and when is the next meeting or when you must submit the next report or document.

So in summary, you manage your research supervisor by communicating with them as well as questioning them from early in the relationship and clarifying their requirements and expectations. It is therefore all about communication and setting goals. Communicating expectations and setting shared goals at the very early stage is important so that both you and your supervisor can have a smooth relationship based on understanding of each other from the inception of the relationship.

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