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  • PLoS Comput Biol
  • v.17(9); 2021 Sep

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Ten simple rules for choosing a PhD supervisor

Department of Biology, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

Catherine Bannon

J. scott p. mccain, introduction.

The PhD beckons. You thought long and hard about why you want to do it, you understand the sacrifices and commitments it entails, and you have decided that it is the right thing for you. Congratulations! Undertaking a doctoral degree can be an extremely rewarding experience, greatly enhancing your personal, intellectual, and professional development. If you are still on the fence about whether or not you want to pursue a PhD, see [ 1 , 2 ] and others to help you decide.

As a PhD student in the making, you will have many important decisions to consider. Several of them will depend on your chosen discipline and research topic, the institution you want to attend, and even the country where you will undertake your degree. However, one of the earliest and most critical decisions you will need to make transcends most other decisions: choosing your PhD thesis supervisor. Your PhD supervisor will strongly influence the success and quality of your degree as well as your general well-being throughout the program. It is therefore vital to choose the right supervisor for you. A wrong choice or poor fit can be disastrous on both a personal and professional levels—something you obviously want to avoid. Unfortunately, however, most PhD students go through the process of choosing a supervisor only once and thus do not get the opportunity to learn from previous experiences. Additionally, many prospective PhD students do not have access to resources and proper guidance to rely on when making important academic decisions such as those involved in choosing a PhD supervisor.

In this short guide, we—a group of PhD students with varied backgrounds, research disciplines, and academic journeys—share our collective experiences with choosing our own PhD supervisors. We provide tips and advice to help prospective students in various disciplines, including computational biology, in their quest to find a suitable PhD supervisor. Despite procedural differences across countries, institutions, and programs, the following rules and discussions should remain helpful for guiding one’s approach to selecting their future PhD supervisor. These guidelines mostly address how to evaluate a potential PhD supervisor and do not include details on how you might find a supervisor. In brief, you can find a supervisor anywhere: seminars, a class you were taught, internet search of interesting research topics, departmental pages, etc. After reading about a group’s research and convincing yourself it seems interesting, get in touch! Make sure to craft an e-mail carefully, demonstrating you have thought about their research and what you might do in their group. After finding one or several supervisors of interest, we hope that the rules bellow will help you choose the right supervisor for you.

Rule 1: Align research interests

You need to make sure that a prospective supervisor studies, or at the very least, has an interest in what you want to study. A good starting point would be to browse their personal and research group websites (though those are often outdated), their publication profile, and their students’ theses, if possible. Keep in mind that the publication process can be slow, so recent publications may not necessarily reflect current research in that group. Pay special attention to publications where the supervisor is senior author—in life sciences, their name would typically be last. This would help you construct a mental map of where the group interests are going, in addition to where they have been.

Be proactive about pursuing your research interests, but also flexible: Your dream research topic might not currently be conducted in a particular group, but perhaps the supervisor is open to exploring new ideas and research avenues with you. Check that the group or institution of interest has the facilities and resources appropriate for your research, and/or be prepared to establish collaborations to access those resources elsewhere. Make sure you like not only the research topic, but also the “grunt work” it requires, as a topic you find interesting may not be suitable for you in terms of day-to-day work. You can look at the “Methods” sections of published papers to get a sense for what this is like—for example, if you do not like resolving cryptic error messages, programming is probably not for you, and you might want to consider a wet lab–based project. Lastly, any research can be made interesting, and interests change. Perhaps your favorite topic today is difficult to work with now, and you might cut your teeth on a different project.

Rule 2: Seek trusted sources

Discussing your plans with experienced and trustworthy people is a great way to learn more about the reputation of potential supervisors, their research group dynamics, and exciting projects in your field of interest. Your current supervisor, if you have one, could be aware of position openings that are compatible with your interests and time frame and is likely to know talented supervisors with good reputations in their fields. Professors you admire, reliable student advisors, and colleagues might also know your prospective supervisor on various professional or personal levels and could have additional insight about working with them. Listen carefully to what these trusted sources have to say, as they can provide a wealth of insider information (e.g., personality, reputation, interpersonal relationships, and supervisory styles) that might not be readily accessible to you.

Rule 3: Expectations, expectations, expectations

A considerable portion of PhD students feel that their program does not meet original expectations [ 3 ]. To avoid being part of this group, we stress the importance of aligning your expectations with the supervisor’s expectations before joining a research group or PhD program. Also, remember that one person’s dream supervisor can be another’s worst nightmare and vice versa—it is about a good fit for you. Identifying what a “good fit” looks like requires a serious self-appraisal of your goals (see Rule 1 ), working style (see Rule 5 ), and what you expect in a mentor (see Rule 4 ). One way to conduct this self-appraisal is to work in a research lab to get experiences similar to a PhD student (if this is possible).

Money!—Many people have been conditioned to avoid the subject of finances at all costs, but setting financial expectations early is crucial for maintaining your well-being inside and outside the lab. Inside the lab, funding will provide chemicals and equipment required for you to do cool research. It is also important to know if there will be sufficient funding for your potential projects to be completed. Outside the lab, you deserve to get paid a reasonable, livable stipend. What is the minimum required take-home stipend, or does that even exist at the institution you are interested in? Are there hard cutoffs for funding once your time runs out, or does the institution have support for students who take longer than anticipated? If the supervisor supplies the funding, do they end up cutting off students when funds run low, or do they have contingency plans? ( Fig 1 ).

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Professional development opportunities—A key aspect of graduate school training is professional development. In some research groups, it is normal for PhD students to mentor undergraduate students or take a semester to work in industry to get more diverse experiences. Other research groups have clear links with government entities, which is helpful for going into policy or government-based research. These opportunities (and others) are critical for your career and next steps. What are the career development opportunities and expectations of a potential supervisor? Is a potential supervisor happy to send students to workshops to learn new skills? Are they supportive of public outreach activities? If you are looking at joining a newer group, these sorts of questions will have to be part of the larger set of conversations about expectations. Ask: “What sort of professional development opportunities are there at the institution?”

Publications—Some PhD programs have minimum requirements for finishing a thesis (i.e., you must publish a certain number of papers prior to defending), while other programs leave it up to the student and supervisor to decide on this. A simple and important topic to discuss is: How many publications are expected from your PhD and when will you publish them? If you are keen to publish in high-impact journals, does your prospective supervisor share that aim? (Although question why you are so keen to do so, see the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment ( www.sfdora.org ) to learn about the pitfalls of journal impact factor.)

Rule 4: It takes two to tango

Sooner or later, you will get to meet and interview with a prospective PhD supervisor. This should go both ways: Interview them just as much as they are interviewing you. Prepare questions and pay close attention to how they respond. For example, ask them about their “lab culture,” research interests (especially for the future/long term), and what they are looking for in a graduate student. Do you feel like you need to “put on an act” to go along with the supervisor (beyond just the standard interview mode)? Represent yourself, and not the person you think they are looking for. All of us will have some interviews go badly. Remember that discovering a poor fit during the interview has way fewer consequences than the incompatibility that could arise once you have committed to a position.

To come up with good questions for the prospective supervisor, first ask yourself questions. What are you looking for in a mentor? People differ in their optimal levels of supervision, and there is nothing wrong with wanting more or less than your peers. How much career guidance do you expect and does the potential supervisor respect your interests, particularly if your long-term goals do not include academia? What kind of student might not thrive in this research group?

Treat the PhD position like a partnership: What do you seek to get out of it? Keep in mind that a large portion of research is conducted by PhD students [ 4 ], so you are also an asset. Your supervisor will provide guidance, but the PhD is your work. Make sure you and your mentor are on the same page before committing to what is fundamentally a professional contract akin to an apprenticeship (see “ Rule 3 ”).

Rule 5: Workstyle compatibility

Sharing interests with a supervisor does not necessarily guarantee you would work well together, and just because you enjoyed a course by a certain professor does not mean they are the right PhD supervisor for you. Make sure your expectations for work and work–life approaches are compatible. Do you thrive on structure, or do you need freedom to proceed at your own pace? Do they expect you to be in the lab from 6:00 AM to midnight on a regular basis (red flag!)? Are they comfortable with you working from home when you can? Are they around the lab enough for it to work for you? Are they supportive of alternative work hours if you have other obligations (e.g., childcare, other employment, extracurriculars)? How is the group itself organized? Is there a lab manager or are the logistics shared (fairly?) between the group members? Discuss this before you commit!

Two key attributes of a research group are the supervisor’s career stage and number of people in the group. A supervisor in a later career stage may have more established research connections and protocols. An earlier career stage supervisor comes with more opportunities to shape the research direction of the lab, but less access to academic political power and less certainty in what their supervision style will be (even to themselves). Joining new research groups provides a great opportunity to learn how to build a lab if you are considering that career path but may take away time and energy from your thesis project. Similarly, be aware of pros and cons of different lab sizes. While big labs provide more opportunity for collaborations and learning from fellow lab members, their supervisors generally have less time available for each trainee. Smaller labs tend to have better access to the supervisor but may be more isolating [ 5 , 6 ]. Also note that large research groups tend to be better for developing extant research topics further, while small groups can conduct more disruptive research [ 7 ].

Rule 6: Be sure to meet current students

Meeting with current students is one of the most important steps prior to joining a lab. Current students will give you the most direct and complete sense of what working with a certain supervisor is actually like. They can also give you a valuable sense of departmental culture and nonacademic life. You could also ask to meet with other students in the department to get a broader sense of the latter. However, if current students are not happy with their current supervisor, they are unlikely to tell you directly. Try to ask specific questions: “How often do you meet with your supervisor?”, “What are the typical turnaround times for a paper draft?”, “How would you describe the lab culture?”, “How does your supervisor react to mistakes or unexpected results?”, “How does your supervisor react to interruptions to research from, e.g., personal life?”, and yes, even “What would you say is the biggest weakness of your supervisor?”

Rule 7: But also try to meet past students

While not always possible, meeting with past students can be very informative. Past students give you information on career outcomes (i.e., what are they doing now?) and can provide insight into what the lab was like when they were in it. Previous students will provide a unique perspective because they have gone through the entire process, from start to finish—and, in some cases, no longer feel obligated to speak well of their now former supervisor. It can also be helpful to look at previous students’ experiences by reading the acknowledgement section in their theses.

Rule 8: Consider the entire experience

Your PhD supervisor is only one—albeit large—piece of your PhD puzzle. It is therefore essential to consider your PhD experience as whole when deciding on a supervisor. One important aspect to contemplate is your mental health. Graduate students have disproportionately higher rates of depression and anxiety compared to the general population [ 8 ], so your mental health will be tested greatly throughout your PhD experience. We suggest taking the time to reflect on what factors would enable you to do your best work while maintaining a healthy work–life balance. Does your happiness depend on surfing regularly? Check out coastal areas. Do you despise being cold? Consider being closer to the equator. Do you have a deep-rooted phobia of koalas? Maybe avoid Australia. Consider these potentially even more important questions like: Do you want to be close to your friends and family? Will there be adequate childcare support? Are you comfortable with studying abroad? How does the potential university treat international or underrepresented students? When thinking about your next steps, keep in mind that although obtaining your PhD will come with many challenges, you will be at your most productive when you are well rested, financially stable, nourished, and enjoying your experience.

Rule 9: Trust your gut

You have made it to our most “hand-wavy” rule! As academics, we understand the desire for quantifiable data and some sort of statistic to make logical decisions. If this is more your style, consider every interaction with a prospective supervisor, from the first e-mail onwards, as a piece of data.

However, there is considerable value in trusting gut instincts. One way to trust your gut is to listen to your internal dialogue while making your decision on a PhD supervisor. For example, if your internal dialogue includes such phrases as “it will be different for me,” “I’ll just put my head down and work hard,” or “maybe their students were exaggerating,” you might want to proceed with caution. If you are saying “Wow! How are they so kind and intelligent?” or “I cannot wait to start!”, then you might have found a winner ( Fig 2 ).

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Rule 10: Wash, rinse, repeat

The last piece of advice we give you is to do this lengthy process all over again. Comparing your options is a key step during the search for a PhD supervisor. By screening multiple different groups, you ultimately learn more about what red flags to look for, compatible work styles, your personal expectations, and group atmospheres. Repeat this entire process with another supervisor, another university, or even another country. We suggest you reject the notion that you would be “wasting someone’s time.” You deserve to take your time and inform yourself to choose a PhD supervisor wisely. The time and energy invested in a “failed” supervisor search would still be far less than what is consumed by a bad PhD experience ( Fig 3 ).

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The more supervisors your interview and the more advice you get from peers, the more apparent these red flags will become.


Pursuing a PhD can be an extremely rewarding endeavor and a time of immense personal growth. The relationship you have with your PhD supervisor can make or break an entire experience, so make this choice carefully. Above, we have outlined some key points to think about while making this decision. Clarifying your own expectations is a particularly important step, as conflicts can arise when there are expectation mismatches. In outlining these topics, we hope to share pieces of advice that sometimes require “insider” knowledge and experience.

After thoroughly evaluating your options, go ahead and tackle the PhD! In our own experiences, carefully choosing a supervisor has led to relationships that morph from mentor to mentee into a collaborative partnership where we can pose new questions and construct novel approaches to answer them. Science is hard enough by itself. If you choose your supervisor well and end up developing a positive relationship with them and their group, you will be better suited for sound and enjoyable science.

Funding Statement

The authors received no specific funding for this work.

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Choosing your PhD supervisor

After deciding on a topic for your Doctoral research project, it's now time to find a PhD supervisor - as they'll become crucial to your academic future

Most PhD students' choice of university is heavily influenced by the opportunity to work alongside a particular academic, as they're the person who'll have the biggest impact on your studies.

While it's possible to apply to an institution without contacting a potential supervisor beforehand, this approach can greatly diminish your chances of Doctoral success.

PhD candidates in many social sciences and arts and humanities subjects are encouraged to actively seek expert academics in their field prior to applying. However, some research projects - particularly those in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects that are tied to a PhD studentship - already have a supervisor allocated.

How do I find a PhD supervisor?

You should identify academics actively researching in your field by:

  • approaching lecturers working within your current or potential department, as these individuals may be able to recommend supervisors
  • browsing articles, publications and blogs relevant to your project, identifying the most commonly cited researchers
  • reading recently submitted PhD dissertations within your research area, noting the supervisor used.

Once you've compiled a shortlist of individuals, visit their online academic profiles - for example, their page on the university website or their own website/blog. You can also follow their social media activity on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

This will signpost you to the articles, blogs, books and reports they've contributed to, plus any exhibitions, public engagement work or PhD research they've participated in - allowing you to decide whether they're a suitable fit, academically speaking.

How do I approach a potential supervisor?

You can then approach your selected potential supervisor (or several, if you're still deciding) with a tailored, well-written and passionate email. Make a positive first impression by:

  • attaching your academic CV
  • avoiding overstatements or vague generalisations, while keeping your message clear and concise
  • conveying your skills and knowledge by introducing your academic background and the field you intend to research
  • referring to the academic by their correct title
  • showing your familiarity with and interest in the academic's work
  • letting them know about any funding you're applying for.

Conclude your message by asking whether you could visit them in person, or at the very least speak over the phone or via Skype/Zoom/Teams. If you receive no response within two weeks, send a follow-up email.

Don't take any rejection personally. The academic may simply be too busy, already supervising several PhD students, or unsure whether your project is suitable.

How do I make a good impression?

If an academic agrees to meet you, they'll be aiming to discover whether you have the passion, tenacity and academic potential to complete a PhD. This means that conveying your determination to complete such an arduous research project is an absolute necessity.

You can also display your enthusiasm by asking your supervisor relevant questions, such as:

  • How far do you see your responsibilities towards me extending?
  • How much time would you have for me, and how often would we meet?
  • What arrangements, if any, would be in place for a second supervisor?
  • What characteristics do you feel successful PhD students have?
  • What do you expect from the students you supervise?
  • What funding and additional support is available at this institution?
  • What is your opinion of my research topic and proposed methodology?
  • What things should I do to supplement my PhD?

What qualities does a good supervisor possess?

Before deciding whether a PhD supervisor is right for you and applying to your chosen institution, you should be certain that the individual is:

  • not intending to leave the institution permanently or go on sabbatical during your PhD
  • of a similar personality and working style to you
  • reliable and approachable, with a strong track record of supervising PhD students
  • someone you're inspired by and proud to associate with
  • sufficiently interested in and enthusiastic about your project to commit three to four years of their guidance, support and encouragement
  • up to date in their knowledge of the latest findings and publications within your field and has strong connections within the world of academia.

How do I develop a good relationship with my supervisor?

Your PhD supervisor will become your primary referee once you've graduated. Forging a strong relationship with them can greatly improve your chances of securing a postdoctoral job .

You can make a positive impression simply by performing many of the extra tasks expected of you - for example, teaching undergraduates, mentoring other postgraduates and representing the university at research conferences.

The University of Leicester recommends that you should also:

  • be open and honest
  • display independence and an ability to manage problems
  • maintain regular contact
  • meet agreed deadlines
  • show a positive and professional attitude
  • understand your mutual responsibilities and expectations
  • use your supervisor's advice and feedback.

What can my supervisor help me with?

Unlike at Bachelors and Masters degree level, your supervisor isn't necessarily an expert in your specific field of study. You'll quickly know more about your research topic than they do - so you must appreciate that they may not have the answer to all your problems.

Indeed, your relationship with your supervisor will evolve as you become less dependent on their support. They will initially focus on helping you to produce quality research, but quickly shift their attention to reviewing your findings and assisting your professional development.

Can I change my PhD supervisor?

Some supervisors dedicate far more time to students than they're required to, while some prefer not to become too involved in their students' research. However, you shouldn't stay silent if you feel like things aren't working out - especially if you're studying a STEM subject, where your supervisor is often effectively your research collaborator.

It's for this reason you should spend plenty of time finding the right academic before enrolling, as changing your supervisor should be the last resort, unless your topic has significantly shifted in the initial months of study.

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  • Discover 5 challenges faced by PhD students .
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Ten types of PhD supervisor relationships – which is yours?

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Lecturer, Griffith University

Disclosure statement

Susanna Chamberlain does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Griffith University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.

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It’s no secret that getting a PhD is a stressful process .

One of the factors that can help or hinder this period of study is the relationship between supervisor and student. Research shows that effective supervision can significantly influence the quality of the PhD and its success or failure.

PhD supervisors tend to fulfil several functions: the teacher; the mentor who can support and facilitate the emotional processes; and the patron who manages the springboard from which the student can leap into a career.

There are many styles of supervision that are adopted – and these can vary depending on the type of research being conducted and subject area.

Although research suggests that providing extra mentoring support and striking the right balance between affiliation and control can help improve PhD success and supervisor relationships, there is little research on the types of PhD-supervisor relationships that occur.

From decades of experience of conducting and observing PhD supervision, I’ve noticed ten types of common supervisor relationships that occur. These include:

The candidate is expected to replicate the field, approach and worldview of the supervisor, producing a sliver of research that supports the supervisor’s repute and prestige. Often this is accompanied by strictures about not attempting to be too “creative”.

Cheap labour

The student becomes research assistant to the supervisor’s projects and becomes caught forever in that power imbalance. The patron-client roles often continue long after graduation, with the student forever cast in the secondary role. Their own work is often disregarded as being unimportant.

The “ghost supervisor”

The supervisor is seen rarely, responds to emails only occasionally and has rarely any understanding of either the needs of the student or of their project. For determined students, who will work autonomously, the ghost supervisor is often acceptable until the crunch comes - usually towards the end of the writing process. For those who need some support and engagement, this is a nightmare.

The relationship is overly familiar, with the assurance that we are all good friends, and the student is drawn into family and friendship networks. Situations occur where the PhD students are engaged as babysitters or in other domestic roles (usually unpaid because they don’t want to upset the supervisor by asking for money). The chum, however, often does not support the student in professional networks.

Collateral damage

When the supervisor is a high-powered researcher, the relationship can be based on minimal contact, because of frequent significant appearances around the world. The student may find themselves taking on teaching, marking and administrative functions for the supervisor at the cost of their own learning and research.

The practice of supervision becomes a method of intellectual torment, denigrating everything presented by the student. Each piece of research is interrogated rigorously, every meeting is an inquisition and every piece of writing is edited into oblivion. The student is given to believe that they are worthless and stupid.

Creepy crawlers

Some supervisors prefer to stalk their students, sometimes students stalk their supervisors, each with an unhealthy and unrequited sexual obsession with the other. Most Australian universities have moved actively to address this relationship, making it less common than in previous decades.

Captivate and con

Occasionally, supervisor and student enter into a sexual relationship. This can be for a number of reasons, ranging from a desire to please to a need for power over youth. These affairs can sometimes lead to permanent relationships. However, what remains from the supervisor-student relationship is the asymmetric set of power balances.

Almost all supervision relationships contain some aspect of the counsellor or mentor, but there is often little training or desire to develop the role and it is often dismissed as pastoral care. Although the life experiences of students become obvious, few supervisors are skilled in dealing with the emotional or affective issues.

Colleague in training

When a PhD candidate is treated as a colleague in training, the relationship is always on a professional basis, where the individual and their work is held in respect. The supervisor recognises that their role is to guide through the morass of regulation and requirements, offer suggestions and do some teaching around issues such as methodology, research practice and process, and be sensitive to the life-cycle of the PhD process. The experience for both the supervisor and student should be one of acknowledgement of each other, recognising the power differential but emphasising the support at this time. This is the best of supervision.

There are many university policies that move to address a lot of the issues in supervisor relationships , such as supervisor panels, and dedicated training in supervising and mentoring practices. However, these policies need to be accommodated into already overloaded workloads and should include regular review of supervisors.

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10 Ways to Impress a PhD Supervisor

Eduardo D. S.

  • By Eduardo D. S.
  • August 1, 2020

How to impress a PhD supervisor

So you want to find out how to impress a PhD supervisor? Maybe you’re about to contact them about a potential project, perhaps you already have a meeting scheduled with them, or maybe you’re already one of their PhD students but you want to leave a lasting impression. Whatever your reasons, learning the correct way to impress a PhD supervisor can do wonders for building a great relationship and increasing your chances of success not only in your project but also in opening doors for your future career development.

Based on my own experiences, I’m going to share 10 of the best ways to impress a supervisor – 5 for before they agree to take you on, and 5 for when you become one of their PhD students.

5 Ways to Impress a PhD Supervisor Before They Agree to Supervise You

1. communicate clearly.

PhD supervisors are busy people, they receive countless emails every day from panicked students, colleagues chasing up peer-reviews, and potential PhD candidates like yourself. When you first contact a potential supervisor, stick to sending them a brief email. Note the brief there. Specify who you are, your educational background, that you are interested in their project, why you are interested in their project, and include a copy of your resume.

You can find a good breakdown of how to structure your first email here – How to Email a Potential PhD Supervisor . Whichever approach you take, the key is to keep it concise.

2. Be Knowledgeable About Your Field

All supervisors want a research student who’s knowledgeable and well-read in their field, as they tend to produce higher-quality work and encounter fewer problems. Although no one expects you to be an expert, make sure you have at least read three of the most popular journal publications in your chosen research area.

3. Research Them

Looking up the supervisor will give you an insight into their research interests, what topics they’re currently researching, and whether they’ve made any notable contributions, be it a publication, a book or a talk at a leading conference. Your goal isn’t to flatter them, but to be able to clearly explain how your project applies to them and why you would like them to be your supervisor. For example, you might pick up on the fact that the supervisor has recently published several papers or attended a number of conferences on a particular subject. Proposing a project closely linked to this area is likely to attract their attention more than a project in a subject which they haven’t published on for several years.

4. Have a Long-Term Plan

Know what you want to research, why you want to research it, and what you want to do after having completed your research.

A PhD is an enormous commitment – it can take up to 8 years, be financially challenging and mentally exhausting. A supervisor will want to reassure themselves that you genuinely believe a PhD is for you, as having a student struggle the entire way through, or worse, drop out altogether, isn’t good for any involved. Spend some time reading up on the common challenges you can expect as a PhD student and determining what your career goals are. Being able to demonstrate an awareness for both of these will help convince the supervisor that your consideration for doing a PhD is a rational one.

Project Plan for creating a good PhD supervisor relationship

5. Have a Project Plan

If you have the opportunity to discuss a project in more detail with a supervisor, keep in mind that not all first interactions will be simple introductory meetings.

Some supervisors like to jump straight in and discuss your proposed project, your methodology, how you plan to collect data, what kinds of challenges you think you may encounter, etc. Answering these questions in detail will show you’re serious about the project. You don’t necessarily need to have all the right answers here but it’s more about showing that you’ve thought about these aspects and do so from a logical standpoint. In contrast, not having well-thought-out answers will give a poor impression of your level of commitment and/or ability.

If you’ve been asked to submit a research proposal as part of your application, you can almost guarantee a large part of your meeting is going to focus on the technical aspects of the project.

5 Ways to Impress a PhD Supervisor After They Agree to Supervise You

It’s natural to want to impress your supervisor, but remember, if they’ve already agreed to supervise you, they’re already impressed with your academic background and research potential. In truth, most supervisors are never more impressed with their students than on the day they receive their doctorate, with all the years of independent research, publications, and hard word work paying off.

If you still want to take a few extra steps to impress your supervisor, here are 5 things you can do during your PhD studies that will get noticed:

6. Be Proactive

Plan your work, commit to your agreed schedule, and fulfil all your obligations. Nothing makes a supervisor happier than an active student taking full responsibility for his or her project. Being proactive assures your supervisor that your project will advance in the right direction, and when you do need support, it’s for genuine issues that warrant their time.

Being a talented researcher isn’t only about being able to conduct research, but also about being able to do so independently. Showing them that you’re capable of this won’t only keep them looking forward to their next meeting, but it will also give them a high level of confidence in your long-term potential.

7. Document, document, document

It happens occasionally – you get a little complacent, or you’re unusually tired that day – and you don’t label your samples or record your results with a high level of care. No matter the excuse, that’s poor practice and will make it harder for yourself when writing up your thesis, or for your supervisor when trying to discuss your results with them.

One of the simplest ways to impress your supervisor (or any fellow researcher for that matter) is to document everything clearly and systematically. This can range from creating a detailed spreadsheet to keeping a frequently updated LATEX file .

Regardless of how you document your work, stick to a single system and make it so detailed that anyone can pick up and continue your research without having to ask for clarification.

How do you impress a potential PhD supervisor

8. Network and Promote Your Research

For creating opportunities in the world of research, nothing is more influential than your reputation. Networking with other researchers within and outside of your university and promoting your work through conferences, events and journal publications improves not only your reputation but also that of your supervisors as a likely co-author. This will help them increase the reach of their work, secure new research grants and be considered for future collaborations.

However, it should be stressed that you mustn’t overstep your bounds – especially when it comes to unfinished work or areas of new potential research. Sharing something your supervisor hasn’t yet wanted to make public is the quickest way to go from impressing to annoying them.

9. Help Them

Supervisors are busy individuals, with a schedule full of lectures, lab sessions, department meetings, plus their own research.

You can earn the gratitude of your supervisor by helping them with some of their tasks, such as offering to host a tutorial on their behalf or setting up the lab for their next demonstration. You can also extend your help to new PhD students who join your research group by acting as a mentor and guiding them through the early challenges of doctoral studies, such as explaining how to order equipment or who to talk to for certain lab requirements.

Supervisors appreciate this type of action as it creates a friendly and collaborative environment for the research group for which they are ultimately responsible for.

10. Clean up After Yourself

You shouldn’t need to be told about this, but it’s surprising how many research students fail to clean up after themselves after having completed laboratory work. This not only goes against laboratory policy , but it gives a poor impression of your research group, which is especially important when you consider the fact you are likely sharing the facilities with staff members who are colleagues of your supervisor.

Cleaning up after yourself shows you respect your colleagues and your workplace and suggests that you have a high personal standard which is always commendable in the eyes of a supervisor. Besides, it’s not that difficult to discard your samples, wipe down your surfaces and record all perishable items that need to be refilled at the end of each day.

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So there you have it, 10 ways to build a good working relationship with your supervisor.

In the same way that a supervisor takes you on as a student, you’re also taking them on as a supervisor, so the relationship must work both ways for it to be successful. I strongly encourage you, in your first meetings with a potential supervisor, to get a sense of whether your personalities are complementary or whether you think there’s a clash. Try to find out what kind of character your supervisor has before joining their research group (e.g. whether they’re a hands-on supervisor or whether they’re a laid back one); if you do this right, most of my tips will fall into place naturally without you having to try.

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What can your PhD supervisor do for you?

4 ways to a more productive relationship.

Gemma Conroy

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Credit: Thomas Barwick/Getty

31 March 2020

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Thomas Barwick/Getty

An Australian survey of PhD students and supervisors has revealed an alarming mismatch between their expectations.

While the 114 PhD students surveyed thought publishing at least four papers and winning grants or awards was the most important outcome of their candidature, the 52 supervisors said critical thinking skills, written communication, and discipline knowledge were the greatest indicators of their students’ success.

More than 20% of the students said they received little or no guidance overall, but only 3% of supervisors said they left students to their own devices. The findings were posted on bioRxiv.

Problems in the relationship between supervisor and students can cost dearly, both for individual students and for the wider research system. In North America, it is estimated that up to 50% of PhD students drop out of their candidature due to feelings of incompetence and a lack of support from supervisors and other faculty members.

A 2019 survey of 311 European universities reported that 34% of PhD students fail to complete their doctoral studies within six years, with many students likely quitting altogether.

Adam Cardilini, a teaching scholar at Deakin University where the Australian survey was conducted, says that discussing expectations and goals early on can lead to a better PhD experience for both students and their supervisors.

“We need to do our best to support candidates and improve research outcomes,” says Cardilini, who led the study.

Below are his four recommendations to help students and supervisors maintain a productive working relationship.

1. Be clear about expectations from the start

Discussing expectations at the beginning is one of the simplest ways to ensure PhD students and supervisors remain on the same page throughout the candidature, says Cardilini.

While building critical thinking skills from the outset can lead to better quality research down the line, Cardilini points out that there also needs to be more focus on “identifying where those critical thinking skills are best displayed.”

For instance, if a supervisor prizes critical thinking skills over publishing papers or winning grants, they should help candidates develop these skills from the start, such as by requiring students to spend six months reviewing papers.

“It’s about helping a candidate know how to read peer reviewed research and be critical of it instead of taking it as gospel,” says Cardilini. “I don’t think we explicitly teach this.”

2. Agree on achievable goals

Setting clear goals ensures that PhD students and supervisors work towards the same outcome, says Cardilini. These could include developing a particular skillset, publishing a certain number of papers, or winning grants.

Cardilini says that learning how to set achievable goals also teaches students how to effectively manage themselves, an essential skill for a productive research career.

“Often these skills are assumed or left up to the student to think about,” says Cardilini. “But it really takes some time for people to learn how to set a goal. I think that’s probably true for some supervisors as well.”

3. Help students be independent and collaborative

Guiding students to think for themselves and team up with other researchers can help candidates stay motivated throughout their PhD. It can also help them become more productive and collaborative down the track, notes Cardilini.

One way to facilitate this development is by creating an open, supportive culture where students can thrive and grow, says Cardilini. For instance, if a student wants to learn a certain type of analysis that the supervisor isn’t well-versed in, they can encourage the candidate to reach out to another research group that can teach them.

“If candidates are open about what they need and supervisors are open about what they can provide, they can talk about where the student needs to be independent, or collaborative,” says Cardilini.

4. Keep communication open

While everyone has different styles of communicating, it’s imperative that PhD students and supervisors agree on a style that suits both their needs, notes Cardilini.

By maintaining open dialogue throughout candidature, students and supervisors can address any issues before they turn into bigger problems. This can lead to a more productive working relationship and can prevent students from dropping out of their program, says Cardilini.

“If you can confront issues and be open to discussing them, you can move forward and have a more productive relationship,” says Cardilini. “But if the candidate dreads going to work or is afraid about how their supervisor will react to their manuscript, it slows everything down.”

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I receive strange emails. Some request money, sexual favours or a reference. Thousands, sent from students, have outlined the failures of PhD supervisors. From this dodgy digital pile, one message remains in my memory.

A young academic was outraged. He was so outraged that he used capital letters throughout the email. He was offended that I had written an article ,  aimed at prospective PhD students, that provided a guide to selecting a supervisor/adviser with care, ensuring that expectations, rights and responsibilities are assembled at the start of their enrolment. He was outraged – sorry, OUTRAGED – that I focused on students and their right to choose. I had supposedly displaced his capacity to supervise by suggesting that students check academic credentials and expertise.

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This strange email captures the dense and difficult negotiations of power within PhD supervision. Students have choices. So do supervisors and advisers. The alignment of purpose and priorities is crucial. Too often, this relationship is toxic. Therefore, let’s park the outrage and provide 10 maxims to consider as we start – or continue – as a supervisor/adviser, so that we are authentic, credible and useful.

1. Just because you have completed a PhD does not mean you can supervise one

Very few academics hold teaching qualifications, particularly outside the education disciplines. Higher degree supervision – too often – is based on homology. We supervise as we were supervised. Or – more worryingly – we supervise how we think we were supervised. This strategy has never been effective – as confirmed by PhD attrition rates . As the PhD student cohort diversifies to include more women, Indigenous and First Nation students, rainbow students, scholars of colour, students with disabilities, and a wide span of ages, homology is not only inappropriate but destructive. My first 18 completions were all students under the age of 25. My next 30 were all over 40. Our students are changing . They will not put up with platitudes, excuses or comments about the good old days.

Experience is not enough. Expertise is required. Enrol in professional development courses. Learn how to supervise. Learn about doctoral studies. It is a burgeoning field of research. Do not assume that we know what we are doing because we graduated with a PhD. Simply because we drink milk does not mean we can run a dairy farm. In no other area of our scholarly lives would we generalise from a data set of one.

2. Any academic can meet a PhD student – the skill is enabling the completion and submission of a quality thesis

It is very pleasant to supervise PhD students. They are bright people who work hard and think deeply. Yet these meetings in and of themselves do not ensure completion or that the research will reach the intellectual level required of a PhD examination.

Do you know the intellectual standard required to pass a PhD in your discipline? In other words, can you read a student’s close-to-completed thesis and know that it will pass? Can you locate the line between major and minor corrections; major corrections and a revise and resubmit; and revise and resubmit and failure? Which disciplines encourage split decisions when examiners disagree? Do you know how the policies, procedures and regulations of your institution shape and frame the PhD thesis that is sent to examiners? How does the digital submission of the thesis transform its preparation and examination?

This knowledge is derived from learning about the doctoral policies and procedures in your institution, reading a large number of doctoral theses and examination reports, and volunteering to be a viva chair or milestone assessor as often as possible. 

Talking to students over coffee or in a lab is important. Understanding the standard required for a doctoral thesis to pass with minor corrections is crucial.

3. Beginnings matter, so work hard in the first year

While the focus of the candidature – from the first day – must be on the examination, a short and successful enrolment is based on a powerhouse first year. Some of the most dreadful – and longest – candidatures I have seen have emerged from supervisors allowing students to wander about, thinking about their honours, master’s or capstone projects, drinking coffee and ambling through conferences, while complaining about their lack of progress.

The best candidatures begin as if the student is driving in a Grand Prix. Start your engines. Hammer to the first corner. It is important that students do not simply redo earlier projects. Find a subject area quickly, and then render it discrete, manageable and viable. If students can rapidly determine research questions, even if they are clumsy, then they have a focus. A strong first year of enrolment gives students confidence; they can publish early in the project and start to gain meaningful feedback.

4. Assess the student’s information literacy in the first month of their enrolment

Two pathways connect a student and a supervisor. The first involves teaching a student through their undergraduate years, and they continue through to a PhD with you as their supervisor. The second pathway involves students selecting you to supervise their project from outside your courses, university or country. Both modes of admission hold dangers, mainly involving assumptions about information literacy, academic literacy and disciplinary literacy.

Before my students start their supervision – whether I have known them for years or just begun a teaching and learning relationship – I ensure that they complete a PhD set-up document . This pamphlet, which I have used for every student I have supervised over 24 years, incorporates all modes of the doctorate – including the PhD by prior publication and the artefact-and-exegesis thesis – and fulfils a diagnostic role. It ensures that the student is thinking about a topic, they verify methodological, epistemological and ontological considerations, and also log their information literacy. For the supervisor, the completed set-up document and the subsequent meeting – which I usually schedule for two hours – provides the initiation into the doctoral programme.

From this diagnostic tool, a suite of professional development programmes can be inserted into the candidature, particularly involving the library, librarians and information literacy. From this foundation, literature reviews, systematic reviews and scoping reviews can emerge, which enable a rapid narrowing of the project and the development of research questions. 

5. Assumptions kill doctorates

Students maintain assumptions about a PhD. So do supervisors. If these assumptions are not communicated and managed, students and supervisors move through the candidature misunderstanding each other. The resultant “conversations” are hooked into confusion, resentment, bitterness and anger. Statements such as: “It’s your PhD” and “Tell me what you want me to do next” pepper the enrolment. The set up document and initial meeting replace assumptions with talking points about the rights, responsibilities and roles of supervisors and students. A clear, honest discussion about meeting frequency, feedback, modes of communication and the management of challenges at the start of a candidature not only saves time but reduces the likelihood of changing supervisors through the programme and cuts student attrition.

6. The selection of examiners is the single most important moment in a doctoral programme

Examination matters to a PhD. Our last stand for quality assurance and excellence in our universities resides in doctoral programmes. If we “dial a mate” and bring in friends to examine, it is time to close our universities.  Standards matter. When I was dean of graduate research, it was amazing how often I had very senior colleagues attacking me with aggression only seen in extreme cage fighting about the importance of their research partner, grant collaborator, co-author or former student acting as an examiner. The mantra would progress as follows (yes, this is a direct quotation): “There are only three experts in this field in the world. I am one of them and I am friends with the other two.” In this case, the area with only three international experts was – wait for it – body image.

Select an examiner who is intensely research-active, aligned to the field of the thesis without being so close that the student would be viewed as a threat, and resolutely independent of the supervisor.

To ensure a strong selection of external examiners, enact a full digital evaluation to ensure that they are research-active and a decent person, rather than in need of a Snickers at the first critique or differing view. Finally – and this is sad to write – select experienced researchers, supervisors and examiners. The toughest examiners are – obviously – the most inexperienced. They have a data set of one: their own thesis. They are a genius (obviously). Any thesis they read in the early years after their own submission and examination must be substandard (to their own).

To shift to the Star Wars universe, find a Yoda examiner rather than one with the impetuous confidence of a young Obi Wan or Luke Skywalker.

7. Make sure the SOCK is obvious, clear and present in the abstract (and the introduction and conclusion)

The PhD has one characteristic: a significant, original contribution to knowledge (SOCK) . Without a SOCK, a PhD will not pass. Each word is important. Research can be a contribution but not original. It can be original but not significant. Supervisor and student must work together to ensure that the SOCK is the strong frame for the candidature and thesis. The earlier a student can ascertain their SOCK, the smoother the progression to completion.

The SOCK is presented in the second sentence of the abstract: “My significant, original contribution to knowledge is…” As supervisors, we need to move the student into the space where they can complete this sentence as early as possible in their enrolment.

Examiners are paid very little to assess a thesis. It is hard work. Think about an examiner reading a thesis while drinking a glass of chianti. Therefore, in every chapter, a student must remind the chianti-fuelled examiner about the purpose of this chapter and how it aligns with the SOCK of the thesis. Ensure that the abstract, introduction, conclusion and every single chapter hook into the SOCK.

8. PhD students are not your slaves, sexual partners, un(der)paid research assistants or writers of your articles

One of the saddest memories of my academic career emerged in a meeting (obviously) when I had started as a dean of graduate research. Senior scholars – research heavyweights – were assembled in the room. Very early in the meeting one of these Mike Tysons described their PhD students as “slaves.” That was appalling. What was chilling was the laughter that erupted in response to this nasty noun. 

PhD students do not exist to serve or service the supervisor. They are not drawing breath so that they can complete a supervisor’s research project or write a supervisor’s articles. We all know – personally and professionally – shocking stories about supervisors “appropriating” the work of their students or adding their name to papers in which they had minimal intellectual input. Research codes of conduct around the world – most stemming from the Vancouver protocol – are creating changes, with institutions and journals demanding transparency and integrity from all authors through the submission process.

PhD students need a supervisor to protect, guide, mentor and enable. It is an unequal relationship. Shocking cases have been revealed around the world of the sexual exploitation of students, from sexual harassment through to sexual assault. These cases demean all scholars. The standards we walk past are the standards we accept. A PhD candidate is a student, and therefore worthy of respect, care, guidance and clarity in the standards of a professional relationship.

9. Create a strong supervisory team

Most university systems around the world insist on a supervisory team. That change is welcome; we cannot guarantee that the scholars who start the supervision will remain in place until the examination. A team adds safety, and a safety net for the student.

Supervisory teams, composed of two or more colleagues, are important. Sometimes, the relationships are fraught or non-existent. Many co-supervisors are simply on paper for administrative purposes and not involved in the project. The best relationships involve one of the supervisors using their specific expertise – often in methodology – to enable the creation of a chapter. When that part of the project is completed, they step back from the supervision. 

Supervisors should meet before any student is involved in the process to discuss their expectations, hopes and concerns about the project and the student. How often are meetings held? Who is involved in those meetings? How is feedback to be organised? How are disagreements – scholarly or otherwise – to be resolved? These questions must be answered and agreed on before the student is involved in the process.

10. Do not confuse the production of refereed articles with the construction of a thesis

Every PhD should have a dissemination strategy. Research must be available to ensure citizens and fellow scholars can use it – and transform it. Examiners also recognise the value of peer-reviewed publications as part of the PhD. Experienced supervisors remember that  the best examiners differentiate between the processes of  peer reviewing and examination. 

I have published more than 250 refereed articles. I have graduated from only one PhD. The confusion between publishing articles and examination dumbs down our doctorates. Indeed, it is becoming customary to assume that three refereed articles are sufficient in scope, scale and quality to create a successful PhD examination.

Three articles in three years would not reach the level required to be “research-active” as a scholar. Many of us produce between five and 10 articles every year. Indeed, the PhD by prior publication , an unusual but burgeoning mode of doctorate, submits a long (20,000-40,000 words) contextual statement confirming the significant, original contribution to knowledge, followed by a large number of publications, often spanning from 12 to 25 articles. 

In terms of quality assurance, how could three articles be equivalent to an integrated research project of 100,000 words? Indeed, how could three articles be equivalent to the 12 or more publications submitted through a PhD by prior publication?

Fine PhDs have been passed without any publications emerging from them. Theses with refereed articles have been subjected to revision and re-examination. Publishing research during a PhD is valuable. It must not be assumed that peer review and examination are equivalent or converge.

A final note: supervising PhD students is a privilege. It is not a right. Doctoral studies and the scholarship of supervision (SoS)  literature are revealing how supervisory quality is built through experience, expertise, professional development and research-led andragogy. Our responsibilities as supervisors are not only to our students but also to our disciplines, to research ethics and the maintenance of standards. Great PhD students are our future. Great PhD supervisors remain at their service.

Tara Brabazon is professor of cultural studies at Flinders University. Her most recent books are 12 rules for (Academic) Life: A Stroppy Feminist Guide to Teaching, Learning, Politics and Jordan Peterson (Springer, 2022) and Comma: How to Restart, Reclaim and Reboot your PhD (Author’s Republic, 2022).

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For more insights from Tara Brabazon:

How to get students through their PhD thesis

10 truths a PhD supervisor will never tell you

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The PhD Proofreaders

What makes a good PhD supervisor? Top tips for managing the student-supervisor relationship.

Jan 8, 2020

what makes a good supervisor

When I started my PhD, the entire cohort of incoming students had an induction session in the university’s great hall. There were around 500 of us, from every department and every imaginable discipline. 

The induction itself was tedious, but there was one comment in particular that stood out immediately and stuck with me throughout my entire PhD journey. When a professor was asked in a Q&A what advice he would give incoming PhD students, he said to remember that, after your mother, your supervisor will be the most important person in your life.

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Now I’m at the other end of the PhD and I’ve graduated, I’ve got some advice of my own to add to his. You see, the professor overlooked something really important, and that is that, by the time we were sitting in the induction, we had already chosen our supervisors (or had them assigned, as in my case).  

Why should that matter? Primarily because whether or not your supervisor becomes the most important person in your life depends how good that supervisor actually is, how well they are executing their duties, and how well you are managing the student-supervisor relationship. 

In this guide, I want to dig in a little more into what makes a good supervisor, before discussing what they should and shouldn’t be doing, why you need to please them (and how you can go about doing so), and how to make the 

How to choose a PhD supervisor 

The most important piece of advice for someone about to embark on a PhD and looking for a potential supervisor is to actually make an effort to talk to them about your research proposal.

Now, for many, your potential supervisor may be someone you already know, such as a lecturer, Master’s dissertation supervisor or tutor. Or, it may be someone from your department who you don’t know so well, but whose work fits your research interests. 

In either case, chances are you’ve interacted with them in a teacher-student kind of relationship, where they lecture and you take notes. Well, when thinking about your PhD and their role as a potential supervisor, it’s time to put on a different hat and approach them as a peer. Email them or call them and schedule a phone call or face-to-face meeting to talk about your proposal and solicit their advice. Be explicit about wanting them to supervise you and tell them why. They won’t bite. In all likelihood, they’ll be flattered. 

Now, the same applies even if it’s someone you don’t know or have never interacted with (perhaps if it’s someone from a different university or country). Approach them, explain what you intend to do and tell them exactly why you think they should supervise you.  

As you ask these questions, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what to look for in a potential supervisor. For one, their research interests need to align with yours. The closer they align the better. But, more than that, you need to consider whether they have published in your field (and whether they’re continuing to do so).

Often, though, the more high-profile academics will already be supervising a number of students. Try, if you can, to get an idea of how many PhD students they are currently supervising. This will give you a good idea of whether they’ll have the time required to nurture your project over the years it will take you to complete it, or whether they’ll be stretched too thin. Also, look at how many students they have supervised in the past and how many of them completed successfully. This will give you a good insight into their experience and competence.  

Remember back to that advice I got on my first day: the person you’re choosing to supervise your study will become the most important person in your life, so you need to consider the personal dimension too. Do you actually get on with them? You’ll be spending a lot of time together, and some of it will be when you’re at your most vulnerable (such as when you’re stressed, under incredible pressure or breaking down as the PhD blues get the better of you). Do you think this person is someone with whom you can have a good, friendly relationship? Can you talk openly to them? Will they be there for you when you need them and, more importantly, will you be able to ask them to be?

Once you’ve considered all this, don’t be afraid to approach them at a conference, swing by their office, drop them an email or phone them and run your project by them. The worst they can do is say no, and if they do they’ll likely give you great feedback and advice that you can take to another potential supervisor. But they may just turn around and say yes, and if you’ve done your homework properly, you’ll have a great foundation from which to start your PhD-journey. They’ll also likely work with you to craft your draft proposal into something that is more likely to be accepted. 

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What is the role of a supervisor?

Think of your supervisor like a lawyer. They are there to advise you on the best course of action as you navigate your PhD journey, but ultimately, the decisions you make are yours and you’re accountable for the form and direction your PhD takes.

In other words: they advise, you decide. 

I appreciate that is vague, though. What do they advise on?

Primarily, their job is:

8. To a certain extent, they often provide emotional and pastoral support

How many of these jobs they actually do will vary from supervisor to supervisor. You have to remember that academics, particularly those that are well known in their field, are often extremely busy and in many cases overworked and underpaid. They may simply not have the time to do all the things they are supposed to. Or, it may be the case that they simply don’t need to because you already have a good handle on things. 

What does a supervisor not do?

Your supervisor is not there to design your research for you, or to plan, structure or write your thesis. Remember, they advise and you decide. It’s you that’s coming up with the ideas, the plans, the outlines and the chapters. It’s their job to feedback on them. Not the other way around.

Unlike at undergraduate or masters level, their job isn’t to teach you in the traditional sense, and you aren’t a student in the traditional sense either. The onus is on you to do the work and take the lead on your project. That means that if something isn’t clear, or you need help with, say, a chapter outline, it is up to you to solicit that advice from your supervisor or elsewhere. They won’t hold your hand and guide you unless you ask them to.

Having said that, their job isn’t to nanny you. At PhD level it is expected that you can work independently and can self-motivate. It is not your supervisor’s job to chase you for chapter drafts or to motivate you to work. If you don’t do the work when you’re supposed to then it’s your problem, not theirs.

It’s also not their job to proofread or edit your work. In fact, if you’re handing in drafts that contain substantial fluency or language issues (say, if you’re a non-native English speaker), it’s likely to annoy them, particularly if you’re doing so at the later stages of the PhD, because they’ll have to spend as much time focusing on how you’re writing as they do on what you’re writing.

More troubling would be if you explicitly ask them to correct or edit the language. They won’t do this and will take a dim view of being asked. Instead, hire a proofreader or ask a friend with good writing skills to take a read through and correct any obvious language errors (check the rules laid out by your university to see what a proofreader can and cannot do though. As with everything in your PhD, the onus is on you to do things properly).

What you need to do to please your supervisor

The lines between what your supervisor will and will not do for you are blurred, and come down in large part to how much they like you. That means you should pay attention to pleasing them, or at least not actively irritating them.

There are a few simple things you can do that will make their life easier and, with that, boost their opinion of you and their willingness to go beyond their prescribed role.

First, and by this stage you shouldn’t need to be told this, meet deadlines, submit work to them when you said you would, and turn up to your supervision meetings on time. If you meet the deadlines you’ve set, they’re more likely to return work quicker and spend more time reading it prior to doing so.

Wrapping up

Managed well, you too can ensure that your supervisor is the most important person in your life. And you want them to be. Those who succeed in their PhDs and in their early academic careers are those who had effective supervision and approached their supervisor as a mentor.

Things don’t always go according to plan, though, and sometimes even with the best will in the world, supervisors under-perform, create problems or, in more extreme cases, sabotage PhD projects. This can be for a variety of reasons, but it leaves students in a difficult position; in the student-supervisor relationship, the student is relatively powerless, particularly if the supervisor is well known and highly esteemed. If this is the case, when things don’t go well, raising concerns with relevant channels may prove ineffective, and may even create more problems. In these extreme cases, you’ll have to draw on levels of diplomacy and patience you may never have known you had.  

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Kaleb Tadewos

I am very grateful for your interesting and valuable advice here. Thank you very much!

Dr. Max Lempriere

Thanks for the kind words.

Enid Hanze

Though my PhD journey is still in an infancy stage, i can’t thank you enough for the wisdom, motivation and upliftment shared….thank you, i earnestly appreciate it.

You’re very kind. It’s my aim to help others and make their lives easier than mine was when I was doing my PhD. To hear that it’s working fills me with a lot of joy.


I am grateful for this e-mail. I really appreciate and I have learnt a lot about how to build a fruitful relationship with my supervisor.

Thank you again for your notable contribution to our PhD journey.

You’re very welcome. Thanks for reading.

Alfred Bunton-Cole

I’m looking to doing a PhD research and believe your service and material would be very useful. It am in the process of applying for a place at SOAS and hope to be offered the opportunity. I anticipation of this I’m currently investigating and making notes to all the support I’ll need. The challenge for me is I’ll be 69 years old in November and into my 70s in three years time, and would need all the support and encouragement available.

So wish me luck.

Thanks for the comment. What you bring with you is experience and expertise. That will serve you well as you go through the PhD journey. Good luck!

Nason Mukonda

Thank you so much for the valuable advice. I really appreciate your motivation and guidance regarding the PhD journey. Iam a second year PhD student with the University of South Africa and l think your words of wisdom will help me to maintain a friendly relationship with my supervisor until graduation. I thank you

You’re very welcome. I’m glad you’re finding what we do here useful. Keep up the good work.

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phd supervisor d

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Interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision?

Proposed PH.D. in Counselor Education & Supervision

There is a shortage of those trained as counselor educators, a vital component of growing the mental health workforce in professional counseling. The need is clear.

  • Multiple reports consistently rank Nevada 51st for youth mental health access. 
  • Before the pandemic, only 40 percent of Nevada’s youth in need of mental health services received the help they needed. 
  • According to the Office of Suicide Prevention, suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth 8-17 years of age in 2020.
  • With just over 1,000 school counselors in Nevada, the American School Counselor Association estimates a student-to-counselor ratio of 449:1 (their recommendation is 250:1).

This is why UNLV’s Department of Counselor Education, School Psychology, and Human Services is working on plans for a new doctoral program in counselor education and supervision beginning in Fall 2024. The proposed program aspires to:

  • Inform the counseling discipline through grant-funded research, especially in key shortage areas (e.g., addictions, school counseling), to expand our understanding and develop best practices in mental health
  • Respond to the shortage of available counselor education and supervision doctoral programs, especially in the western region
  • Address the shortage of mental health professionals in Nevada, including advanced professionals serving in administrative and leadership positions in schools, as well as mental health and other public health settings

Career Possibilities

If approved, graduates of this doctoral program will be prepared to work as counselor educators, supervisors, researchers, and practitioners in academic and clinical settings. 

Program Structure

Students can enroll as part-time or full-time students. Full-time students may complete the program in three years, and part-time students will have a five-year program option. Only-full-time students are eligible for funding. 

Admissions Requirements

If approved, interested applicants must have earned (or will have earned by the time they enroll) a master’s degree from an accredited institution in counselor education, psychology, or other mental health-related field. Preference will be given to those who have graduated from a CACREP-accredited master’s program.

Financial Support

If approved, the program is prepared to offer seven graduate assistantships to admitted students. Graduate assistantships are 20 hours per week and include up to nine credits of in-state tuition per semester (and an out-of-state tuition waiver for the duration of the assistantship), and a $21,500 yearly stipend. For additional information, please refer to the Graduate Assistant Handbook . 

Please add your information to our contact form . The department’s graduate coordinator, Heather Dahl-Jacinto , will be in touch to share the latest information and, if the program is approved, application instructions. 

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Meet vermont's newly-minted phd: max dow, the tabby cat.


Scott Simon

Max Dow, a once-stray tabby cat, is getting an honorary doctorate from Vermont State University Castleton today. His area of study: Litter-ature.

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Ohio police fatally shoot Amazon warehouse guard who tried to kill supervisor, authorities say

Authorities say a security guard trainee at an Amazon warehouse in Ohio was fatally shot by police after he tried to shoot his supervisor and later shot an officer. The initial shooting occurred Sunday at the warehouse.

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A security guard trainee at an Amazon warehouse in Ohio was fatally shot by police after he tried to shoot his supervisor at close range and later shot an officer who was saved by his bulletproof vest, authorities said.

The initial shooting occurred around 4:40 p.m. Sunday at the warehouse in West Jefferson and was captured on surveillance footage, police said during a news conference Monday.

Ali Hamsa Yusuf, 22, came up behind the supervisor and pointed a gun at the supervisor’s head, police said, but the weapon apparently malfunctioned and the bullet barely missed the supervisor, who was not injured. There were more than 100 workers inside the building when the shooting occurred, officials said.

Yusuf soon fled the building but was spotted later Sunday in Columbus by Madison County authorities. Franklin Township and Columbus police tried to stop his vehicle a short time later, and Yusuf then left the vehicle and began firing at a Columbus officer, who authorities said was hit by a bullet but was not seriously injured due to his bulletproof vest.

Yusuf then tried to run away as other officers fired at him, and he was hit by at least one bullet. He was taken to a hospital but was pronounced dead there a short time later. The Columbus officer, identified only as a four-year veteran of the force, was treated at the hospital for minor injuries and released later Sunday.

Yusuf was not supposed to have a gun while on duty, police said. It’s also not yet known why he tried to shoot his supervisor. Yusuf also had no known criminal history, authorities said.

phd supervisor d

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Geographic coordinates of Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast, Russia

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Coordinates of Elektrostal in decimal degrees

Coordinates of elektrostal in degrees and decimal minutes, utm coordinates of elektrostal, geographic coordinate systems.

WGS 84 coordinate reference system is the latest revision of the World Geodetic System, which is used in mapping and navigation, including GPS satellite navigation system (the Global Positioning System).

Geographic coordinates (latitude and longitude) define a position on the Earth’s surface. Coordinates are angular units. The canonical form of latitude and longitude representation uses degrees (°), minutes (′), and seconds (″). GPS systems widely use coordinates in degrees and decimal minutes, or in decimal degrees.

Latitude varies from −90° to 90°. The latitude of the Equator is 0°; the latitude of the South Pole is −90°; the latitude of the North Pole is 90°. Positive latitude values correspond to the geographic locations north of the Equator (abbrev. N). Negative latitude values correspond to the geographic locations south of the Equator (abbrev. S).

Longitude is counted from the prime meridian ( IERS Reference Meridian for WGS 84) and varies from −180° to 180°. Positive longitude values correspond to the geographic locations east of the prime meridian (abbrev. E). Negative longitude values correspond to the geographic locations west of the prime meridian (abbrev. W).

UTM or Universal Transverse Mercator coordinate system divides the Earth’s surface into 60 longitudinal zones. The coordinates of a location within each zone are defined as a planar coordinate pair related to the intersection of the equator and the zone’s central meridian, and measured in meters.

Elevation above sea level is a measure of a geographic location’s height. We are using the global digital elevation model GTOPO30 .

Elektrostal , Moscow Oblast, Russia


  1. Choosing a PhD Supervisor

    The ideal PhD supervisor will be an expert in their academic field, with a wealth of publications, articles, chapters and books. They'll also have a background in organising and presenting at conference events. It's also important that their expertise is up-to-date. You should look for evidence that they're currently active in your ...

  2. Ten simple rules for choosing a PhD supervisor

    Rule 3: Expectations, expectations, expectations. A considerable portion of PhD students feel that their program does not meet original expectations [].To avoid being part of this group, we stress the importance of aligning your expectations with the supervisor's expectations before joining a research group or PhD program.

  3. What Makes A Good PhD Supervisor?

    4. Is a Good Mentor with a Supportive Personality. A good PhD supervisor should be supportive and willing to listen. A PhD project is an exercise in independently producing a substantial body of research work; the primary role of your supervisor should be to provide mentoring to help you achieve this.

  4. How to get what you need from your Ph.D. or postdoc supervisor

    For Ph.D. candidates and postdocs, the relationship with your supervisor can make or break a career. The onus for a positive and nurturing relationship should fall largely on the senior member. At the same time, supervisors are often overstretched and have their own priorities, which might not perfectly match up with their trainees'.

  5. How to choose the right PhD supervisor

    Below are four tips that can help PhD candidates choose a suitable supervisor, and the red flags to watch out for: 1. Interview the supervisor. While most candidates focus on trying to impress a ...

  6. What You Should Expect from Your PhD Supervisor

    3. Feedback on Work in Progress. Another vital aspect to expect from your supervisor is to receive continuous feedback on your work. With your supervisor being an expert in their field, he should be able to review your work and identify any issues or areas for improvement. Gaining feedback on your work is critical through all stages of your PhD.

  7. Managing up: how to communicate effectively with your PhD adviser

    Include one or two sentences summarizing the agenda and what you want to get out of the meeting. During the meeting, be proactive. Take note of the topics you should follow up on, and their ...

  8. A brief primer on the PhD supervision relationship

    Ideally, a PhD supervisor can discuss the options of both academic and non-academic positions as potential career paths and provide some guidance on further resources for understanding how these options compare (e.g., see Caterine, 2020; Kelsky, 2015; Linder et al., 2020; Madan, 2021). These resources provide perspectives and advice ranging ...

  9. Top tips for choosing a PhD Supervisor

    Passionate. An excellent supervisor is passionate about the work of their pupils. They should be someone who is inspiring and uplifting, who helps their students reach new heights. Someone is not a good supervisor if they lack enthusiasm and interest in their role as your mentor and do not offer verbal encouragement. 3.

  10. How to find a PhD supervisor

    One key tip on how to find a PhD supervisor is to be transparent about your work and progress. Do not hide any inadvertent errors you may have made in your experiment or analyses. Always keep your supervisor "in the loop"! Honesty in every aspect of your work and working relationship will help build trust. Be realistic.

  11. Choosing your PhD supervisor

    Your PhD supervisor will become your primary referee once you've graduated. Forging a strong relationship with them can greatly improve your chances of securing a postdoctoral job. You can make a positive impression simply by performing many of the extra tasks expected of you - for example, teaching undergraduates, mentoring other postgraduates ...

  12. How to be a PhD supervisor

    How to be a PhD supervisor. The relationship between PhD students and their supervisors is often said to be the most intense in the academy, with huge implications for student success. Yet most supervisors receive little if any training. Here, six academics give their take on how to approach it. April 18, 2019.

  13. Ten types of PhD supervisor relationships

    However, these policies need to be accommodated into already overloaded workloads and should include regular review of supervisors. Academics. PhD. professional mentoring. PhD supervisors ...

  14. 10 Ways to Impress a PhD Supervisor

    1. Communicate Clearly. PhD supervisors are busy people, they receive countless emails every day from panicked students, colleagues chasing up peer-reviews, and potential PhD candidates like yourself. When you first contact a potential supervisor, stick to sending them a brief email. Note the brief there.

  15. What can your PhD supervisor do for you?

    4. Keep communication open. While everyone has different styles of communicating, it's imperative that PhD students and supervisors agree on a style that suits both their needs, notes Cardilini ...

  16. Ten platinum rules for PhD supervisors

    A PhD candidate is a student, and therefore worthy of respect, care, guidance and clarity in the standards of a professional relationship. 9. Create a strong supervisory team. Most university systems around the world insist on a supervisory team.

  17. What makes a good PhD supervisor? Top tips for managing the student

    For most of your PhD journey, your supervisor will know more about your subject area than you do (there may become a stage where you overtake them, at least within the niche of your PhD study area), so their advice is really valuable. Most of the time, it will be in your best interest to follow it, and they're giving it because they have the ...

  18. I have a hammer and looking for nail. Supervisor hates me for it : r/PhD

    First year PhD here but got 2- 3 years of prior research experience with a different supervisor. I absolutely love my previous topic and want to continue in the same. My supervisor knows that and wants me to go for a topic that I am not very interested in. I've been told that I am trying to use the technical skills I have to solve new problem.

  19. Interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision

    If approved, graduates of this doctoral program will be prepared to work as counselor educators, supervisors, researchers, and practitioners in academic and clinical settings. Program Structure. Students can enroll as part-time or full-time students. Full-time students may complete the program in three years, and part-time students will have a ...

  20. Elektrostal Map

    Elektrostal is a city in Moscow Oblast, Russia, located 58 kilometers east of Moscow. Elektrostal has about 158,000 residents. Mapcarta, the open map.

  21. Elektrostal

    In 1938, it was granted town status. [citation needed]Administrative and municipal status. Within the framework of administrative divisions, it is incorporated as Elektrostal City Under Oblast Jurisdiction—an administrative unit with the status equal to that of the districts. As a municipal division, Elektrostal City Under Oblast Jurisdiction is incorporated as Elektrostal Urban Okrug.

  22. Elektrostal

    Elektrostal , lit: Electric and Сталь , lit: Steel) is a city in Moscow Oblast, Russia, located 58 kilometers east of Moscow. Population: 155,196 ; 146,294 ...

  23. Meet Vermont's newly-minted PhD: Max Dow, the tabby cat

    Max Dow, a once-stray tabby cat, is getting an honorary doctorate from Vermont State University Castleton today. His area of study: Litter-ature.

  24. Rutgers PhD student delivers dissertation hours after giving birth

    Rutgers PhD student, Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez, gave birth to her son and then hours later defended her dissertation to a committee over Zoom. Rutgers PhD student, Tamiah Brevard-Rodriguez, gave ...

  25. Ohio police fatally shoot Amazon worker who tried to kill supervisor

    A security guard trainee at an Amazon warehouse in Ohio was fatally shot by police after he tried to shoot his supervisor at close range and later shot an officer who was saved by his bulletproof vest, authorities said. The initial shooting occurred around 4:40 p.m. Sunday at the warehouse in West Jefferson and was captured on surveillance ...

  26. Geographic coordinates of Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast, Russia

    Geographic coordinates of Elektrostal, Moscow Oblast, Russia in WGS 84 coordinate system which is a standard in cartography, geodesy, and navigation, including Global Positioning System (GPS). Latitude of Elektrostal, longitude of Elektrostal, elevation above sea level of Elektrostal.