Get the most from Your PhD Supervisor

Cooperating with a professional supervisor is of immense importance for those who start writing their postgraduate paper.

Even if you are highly skilled, you will hardly achieve success if your supervisor cannot give you any helpful advice on how deal with your piece of writing.

No matter whether you are already a postgraduate student or just plan to undertake postgraduate studies, we want to help you attain your objectives. That is why we have prepared precise answers to the most important questions that may help you realize how to get the most from your PhD supervisor.

When is it necessary to begin communicating with my supervisor?

Direct communication with your supervisor is one of the key aspects that will help you build strong professional relationship which are essential for a successful completion of your project. Being able to easily communicate with your supervisor, you will have a possibility to discuss each point of your academic work in detail. Keep in mind that it is worth starting the search for a supervisor before enrolling on a PhD program. Thus, you will have enough time to consider the academics working within your research area and choose the most suitable supervisor. If both of you learn to communicate with each other clearly, you will be able to discuss even the most disputable points.

What does it mean to find an appropriate supervisor?

Selecting a suitable supervisor does not only mean dealing with a person who is competent in a respective academic field. An appropriate supervisor is a person whom you find easy to communicate with without being shy or afraid and who has the same outlook on particular issues. You might have heard some students describing a certain supervisor in the best way. Perhaps you should take their comments into account and consider choosing the very professor as your own supervisor. However, you have to be very attentive. Even the most popular supervisor, whom students find the best in the whole world, may not meet your needs. If you want to work with a tutor meeting your standards, you need to select the one whom you feel at ease with. The way of choosing a supervisor can be compared to that of selecting an interesting movie to watch or fashionable clothes to wear, i.e. you will understand whether you have made the right choice.

What are the types of supervisors guiding postgraduate projects?

One can identify different types of professors managing postgraduate papers. By the way, it may be easier for you to choose a suitable tutor by determining what type he/she belongs to. Then, you will just need to find out as much information about a specific type as possible to know what to expect from your supervisor.

In order to help you find a good supervisor, we offer you to take a look at the list of ten types of supervisors:

Ghostly: Supervisors of such type always lack time to communicate with their students and discuss some aspects of their dissertations. However, if you feel confident of completing the paper on your own, this type of supervisor is right for you.

Unconcerned: An instructor of such type will not make any significant contribution to your project. Such supervisors always say that all aspects of students’ papers are examined properly, even if there are any inconsistencies. Nevertheless, students who always critically analyze their papers to make sure they are impeccable will benefit from such cooperation. Other students who do not find such model of cooperation appropriate will not be able to deal with such supervisors.

Idealist: The tutors of such type are characterized by extensive criticism. They always strongly criticize each point of the paper they are dealing with to make students meet the highest standards. This type of supervisors is the most suitable for students who also believe everything should be absolutely perfect. Students of other types may not enjoy cooperating with such a supervisor.

Temperate: The professors of such type arrange meetings with their students regularly. They discuss all aspects of their papers in detail. However, they never make their students to reach an unattainable level of perfectionism. Such supervisors may help you get inspiration for writing your thesis. At the same time, they never force students adopt their viewpoint on particular issues. In general, the professors belonging to this class are able to maintain a proper balance in the relationship with their students. Though, many students want to have such supervisors, they are not suitable for those who do not like conservative people.

Irresponsible: Such supervisors may send their students several sets of instructions on how to write their thesis every week. Cooperation with such tutors may confuse students. Still, some students do not imagine their life without such drive.

Underperformer: With such a supervisor, you will never be forced to do a lot of work. At the same time, such tutors do not work hard themselves. They usually do not have interest in their projects. Though many students want to cooperate with goal-oriented tutors, there are clear benefits of working with those of such type. One does not have to focus on education entirely, especially if they are more interested in finding a job rather than getting high grades.

Outperformer: You will need to work very hard with this professor to achieve A-level results. This is a perfect match for those who intend to build a successful academic career. Such supervisor will help you become a strong academic.

Undetermined:  The instructors belonging to this type are usually interested in publishing a winning academic paper. They do not pay much attention to the analyzed subject and the way it is researched. Students who prefer to ponder deeply over the matter under consideration and examine its every last detail will not feel themselves comfortable with such a tutor.

Traditional: Such a supervisor will not approve the innovative techniques you decide to use to explore the issue. Therefore, if you are curious about new approaches that can be taken to doing research, you should cooperate with an instructor of another type.

Commanding: You will always need to do everything in the way your supervisor wants. Such a tutor may be suitable for students who lack initiative and cannot make their own decisions.

What are the character features of a great PhD supervisor?

It is obvious that it is impossible to find a universal supervisor who will meet the academic needs of all students. However, there are some features that are considered the basis of a great tutor.

Below, there is a list of some peculiarities one should pay attention to when choosing the instructor to work with:

Great supervisors respect the students they cooperate with and do not consider them unknowledgeable about the subject.

  • A great supervisor communicates with many scholars and can help you get the desirable job position in the academic area after completing your studies.
  • A great supervisor will teach you to form your opinion about different issues and defend it by providing strong arguments.
  • A great supervisor will not “steal” your academic paper and publish it without your permission.
  • A great supervisor is aware of the ways of getting funding. In case you cannot obtain funding for your project on your own, your supervisor will hire you as a personal research assistant.
  • A great supervisor will provide you with explicit guidelines on how to complete your thesis.
  • A great supervisor will always take your ideas into account when developing your academic paper.
  • A great supervisor will not let you lose motivation. Such an instructor will always inspire you.
  • A great supervisor always has time to guide their students through the writing process.
  • A great supervisor will let you conduct research in your own way.

Who is it better to choose: a young but inexperienced supervisor or an old but highly experienced one?

There is a clear difference between old and young instructors. The former have more experience in the academic writing filed than the latter. Therefore, they will let you undertake your own initiative and suggest ideas for examining the topic of your writing project. As to young supervisors, they are less experienced and, therefore, always carefully check what you have done concerning the paper to ensure they are supervising you properly. Moreover, young tutors will be more engaged with your academic work since they need to publish different writing pieces if they intend to occupy a higher position in the respective educational establishment. Depending on your career aspirations, you need to decide whether to cooperate with an experienced or inexperienced tutor. Perhaps an experienced supervisor will be more suitable for you if you want to play a dominant role in writing your paper. Nevertheless, a young supervisor may teach you to work very hard on your work and critically evaluate it. Thus, you will be sure that you are moving in the right direction. If you consider such way of work appropriate, you should choose an inexperienced instructor.

Should my supervisor be highly knowledgeable about the subject matter?

Being a student holding a Master’s degree, you may not be fully aware of all peculiarities of the subject you are examining. That is why it is necessary to choose the supervisor who has considerable expertise in your area. Thus, you will be able to ask questions about the methods that should be used for conducting research, etc.. Still, if you are a PhD student, you may know more about the analyzed issue than your supervisor. In this case, your tutor may not be able to give you some helpful advice on developing your topic. Therefore, you will need either to consult with other researchers about investigating the subject or looking for relevant information about the matter on your own. You should understand that a supervisor cannot be a walking encyclopedia. Working for your PhD degree will teach you to undertake research, analyze different issues, and find a way out of complicated situations.

How often is it necessary to meet with my supervisor?

There is no precise answer to this question. Some students feel the need to meet with their supervisors more frequently than the others, as they want to discuss every their step in creating the paper. However, there are also those who do not need a complete control over the writing process. In general, it is recommended to meet with the supervisor at least twice a month. Nevertheless, some tutors decide to organize meetings with their students every week, while others think that discussing some paper points once or twice over a couple of moths is enough. If you feel you need to meet with your instructor frequently to make sure, you examine the topic properly, it is better to arrange a schedule.

What is the role of my supervisor?

The most important thing is that your supervisor should assist you in preparing a top-notch thesis deserving a top grade. Your instructor should give you handy tips on how to pose the research question correctly and what scientific approach to take to analyzing the subject. Your tutor should also critically assess your work, so that you can see what you have done improperly. Nonetheless, you should realize that your supervisor will not write the paper instead of you. You should not bother your instructor with the details which you can check on your own by using different sources.

Your supervisor should also help you create grant proposals and journal articles. Moreover, your instructor should advise you who of the researches in your academic field you can address to discuss some topic aspects. However, your professor should not find you a job. Note that you should turn to your instructor only if you cannot handle the issue on your own.

What should I do if any misunderstandings between me and my professor arise?

You should understand that some issues may occur when cooperating with your supervisor. However, this is quite natural, especially when it goes about teamwork. If you have healthy professional relationship, it is not worth thinking that the situation may worsen. Still, even if there are no any misunderstandings between both of you, you may be dissatisfied with your cooperation. For instance, you may think that your supervisor has strict control over the writing process or you need to meet with your instructor more frequently to discuss some paper aspects. If that is the case, you need to take some actions immediately. Do not wait until the issue becomes insolvable.

If such a situation has occurred, you should talk to your supervisor and explain them what worries you. In case your instructor is not going to change the action plan, you should turn to the head of your department for assistance. Perhaps it is worth asking them to talk to your supervisor on your behalf. However, what should one do if such actions will not be effective? If the situation is indeed very complicated, you will need to take radical measures, i.e. to find another supervisor.

Is there a limit on the number of times one can change the supervisor?

It should be stated that some students do not change their supervisors at all, while others can do it several times throughout the academic year. Some educational institutions do not set any limits on changing instructors in case you demonstrate positive results in studies. Remember that it is essential to find the supervisor who will suit you best of all. In order to make the right choice and not to change your instructor several times a year, you should weight up all pros and cons of cooperating with the selected candidate.

With the helpful prompts at hand, you will not experience any difficulties in finding the most appropriate supervisor. You will definitely choose the instructor who will help you reach your goals.