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Ideas and advice

Good practice

Helene is clearly a careful supervisor who wants her students to develop as researchers and to learn necessary independence skills. She believes that doing a doctorate should help them to

  1. produce a successful thesis.
  2. learn how to conduct research from developing a question, through selecting and working with appropriate research methodology, methods and practices.
  3. develop researcher identities – including an awareness of and ability to action sound research practices, ethics, sharing and disseminating research outputs.

These are all essential to produce successful researchers and as supervisors we need to find ways to encourage the development of the research project as well as researcher skills , attitudes, identities and behaviours.

Students who want to change supervisor

Sometimes students do want to ’leave’ their supervisor or need to leave because they will benefit from someone else’s supervision. It is important to check whether there is just a difference of opinion , normal in research, which could be resolved through open discussion; whether the student cannot take advice and constructive criticism (and ask yourself whether the advice and criticism are actually constructive) because they will need to learn to do so in the research world of peer review; whether enough and the right kind of support is being given or whether the student actually seems to want the supervisor to do most of the work for them- and so will not really learn research skills or produce their own work.

Management of expectations is important here. Clear discussion, identifying goals , identifying differences of opinion are all important. If there is a chance that they might decide to stay, then working out new ways of working together so that the right balance of support and independence is gained is essential.

If they need to leave or decide to leave then this clear discussion will be helpful for future working relations, and the supervisor providing support for appropriate change to the new supervisory relationship will all help the student’s transition.

Plan structured

There are three issues here. Martin is caught between the need to develop skills associated with being a researcher: writing for publication, and teaching, and getting on with his PhD.
Martin and his supervisor need to sit down together and plan their structured meetings to support stages of his PhD , and the ways in which Martin can balance these demands and develop both experience and confidence in his writing and teaching, while he produces his PhD.

Write academically

There is always an element of subjectivity and risk in submitting writing for peer review. However, there are also good practices to learn which can improve chances for effective publication and Martin could use some of the books which support academic writing (Murray, Dunleavy, Wisker) , take a writing for academic publication course, and work closely with his supervisor to develop and check drafts until he feels more certain about how to write for publication, how to structure and express his work confidently and effectively. This will transfer positively into a better written PhD and help his career after the examination.


Martin could also benefit from mentoring and perhaps a development course, in his teaching role so that he plans ahead, manages his time to fit in planning, teaching and research, uses any set materials available to add to his own teaching materials and develops a habit of reflection on what works well and what could be improved in the practice of his teaching . Practice which is then reflected on with a mentor, supervisor and/ or critical friend could help Martin develop the quality of his teaching as well as his writing.

Some of this support can be provided by the supervisor but some depends on planning, and on using the provision elsewhere in the university.

Contact person for Advice for doctoral supervisors

Margareta Jernås
Phone: +46 (0)31-342 94 33
Send e-mail to Margareta

These web pages were created by Silwa Claesson and Gina Wisker.

Page Manager: Olof Siverbo|Last update: 10/16/2014

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