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Ideas and advice

Olof has decided to write a dissertation relatively late in life, and there is really no research environment in his institution. Consequently, he has to formulate his research questions on his own. Supervising Olof is thus both easy and difficult – it is easy since he is independent in his work and needs less supervision, but difficult since a lot of decisions are already taken at the time when the supervisor and student, Olof first meet.

Questions concerning theory and a critical approach in relation to Olof’s subject of research could be central for supervision since it seems that Olof takes a lot for granted, and that it could be difficult to challenge and change his views. Research environment is important here. Olof himself is aware that he lacks a research environment in which he can be included. However, for a researcher, having a group of PhD students and being in and an environment with a mix of researchers with different levels of experience can be helpful to change preconceptions, challenge fixed limited ideas, and help a student progress.

Create documentation

Structure and documentation are of great importance since both Olof and his supervisor work part time with the project. If everyone is involved in different projects, a documentation routine needs to be developed for every supervision in which a few points are agreed upon, for example:

  • What are the main points that have been discussed during the meeting?
  • Critical aspects
  • Time aspects
  • What decisions have been taken?
  • Agreements

A document with answers to these or other suitable questions can be a simple way to create a structure for the ongoing supervisory process. No more than a few lines are necessary and these can be helpful at future meetings. Supervisor and student might consider whether they have proceeded as intended, and if not, why? It is also important to discuss Olof’s future and financing since his situation is characterized by uncertainty.

Issues on power

Another concern that Olof stresses is the relationship between his two supervisors. Although they are of the same age, his main supervisor seems “softer” to Olof who experiences him (the main supervisor) as somehow inferior to, less influential than the second supervisor. This has created a competitiveness that Olof is uncomfortable with.
In a hierarchical system such as the University, conflicts about power are always immanent. The characteristics of these conflicts are sometimes subtle and sometimes explicit.

Since PhD students always are dependent on their supervisors, they are often aware of these conflicts, which can disturb them in their work. Thus, the relation between the supervisors needs to be sorted out right at the beginning of the supervisory relationship and a routine developed to clarify their different roles in a way that benefits Olof.

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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