Researcher's Toolkit: Preparing for supervision

In Chapter 3: Getting Started, we note that effective dissertation supervision will enhance the prospects of successfully completing your dissertation. You will be allocated a supervisor and expected to meet with them throughout the dissertation process. This is an important ‘resource’ for your project and therefore it is important to get the most out of these meetings.

The best supervision meetings happen when the student has a clear idea of what they want to ask, or what they want to achieve from the conversation. In the chapter we talk about having ‘strategies’ to ensure that the relationship is productive. One way to do this is to create an agenda for each meeting, as well as keeping a record of the supervision. This will help to ensure that the expectations are managed on both sides and that deadlines/tasks are clear. 

Here are some tasks to do before your first meeting

  • Ask yourself how you work best? What are your strengths and weaknesses? 
  • Write down the elements of your work which you might need support with (e.g. organization, establishment of deadlines).
  • How would you like supervisions to work? (e.g. frequency and structure of meetings).
  • What are your expectations of the supervision process?
  • What is it that your project is about? What do you want to study? 

Putting this into some form of table that you can adjust as the project progresses and after each meeting might be helpful. Respond to the question and then note some possible actions to manage or improve on. You could utilize this as an ongoing ‘to do’ list which you might take to your supervision meeting(s), such as this one: 

Ongoing Supervision Meeting ‘To Do’ List

Some students might find the idea of being assertive in supervision meetings difficult or stressful. Try to remember that your supervisor is there to help and guide you. It is your project, so ultimately (unless there are ethical issues) you should be confident and assertive in communicating what you want to do. Think of these meetings as conversations with someone who is interested in your work and wants to help you. 

In the first meeting utilize the table above to communicate your ideas and expectations with your supervisor. Some points you might want to cover are: 

  • Communicate your own expectations 
  • Supervisors expectations (check they align with your own)
  • What is the project about/trying to achieve? 
  • How will you submit work? 
  • How do you record supervisions? 
  • Set your first deadline 

It is also really useful to ensure that you carefully record each meeting with your supervisor, outlining and agreeing on the tasks and expectations between each meeting. A dissertation record sheet can help with this. Your own department or supervisor might have one of these, but if not, we have provided you with some other templates that can be used:

Dissertation Supervision Meeting Plan/Record (designed to allow you to make more extensive notes for completion before and to be written up after)

Dissertation Supervision Record Sheet: Ongoing log tracking progress and key points (brief notes to record key information during the meeting)  

We also provide some guidance on how to make the most out of your supervision meetings, with a bit more information on how to prepare and use your meetings effectively:

Working with your Supervisor

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