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Ideas and advice

Supervision can be carried out in many ways and it is the supervisor who to a high degree directs the process of supervision. The mutual meeting and exchange of ideas are central for new knowledge building. Communication and interaction between supervisor and research student are important foundations for a constructive supervision situation, which creates opportunities for development of knowledge and meaning in dialogue and interplay.

One goal is that the student is going to be in an on-going process where the individual creates meaning, gains new insights, and develops new knowledge during his/her time in the doctoral programme. Another goal is that the research student is going to develop independence, a critical mind, communicative ability and capability to cooperate with others both within and outside the student’s subject area.

Formulate aim and goals

Formulate aim and goals in the supervision commission. The goals need to be specified, concretised and well formulated to preclude misunderstanding from any party. The goals fulfil several functions; expectations are expressed, they provide support in the work in the supervision process, and facilitate communication. Furthermore, the goals contribute to a direction towards important problems and constitute a basis for evaluation.

Create a good relationship

Devote time and energy on creating a good relationship between you as a supervisor and the doctoral student. Mutual engagement and interest are necessary for accomplishing a good work. It creates the foundation for good co-operation, good dialogue, and mutual view on the work which is going to be supervised and carried out.

Come to a mutual agreement

At the beginning of the supervision, prepare a mutual agreement, “a contract” for your work together. Such an agreement contributes to clarity and motivation for both parties. It is suitable to make this agreement within the frame of the doctoral student’s individual study plan. The agreement describes your roles as a doctoral student and a supervisor and it includes basic understanding regarding how the work is carried on – which responsibility, obligations, and commitments that each one has during the work and supervision.

As a supervisor, you need to make clear and explain how you plan the supervision, how the supervision is going to be carried out, and express which expectations there are on the doctoral student. As a research student, you need to clarify and explain how you are going to learn from the supervision and cooperate during the course of supervision. Furthermore, it is a good strategy that that you describe your expectations on the supervision and which your ambitions are.

Decide how often you are going to meet for supervision – regular meetings are important to keep a good dialogue and pace in the work. The drawn up agreement is useful for going back and following up on the process and change directions if necessary.

Continuous planning

Work continuously with planning, documentation, response, and follow-up during the entire process of supervision. It will provide frames and safety for all parties and clarity regarding the progress of the work.

Keep a good dialogue

In the dialogue of supervision, it is important in what way the questions to the research student are asked. Open questions as for example – How do you do it? What are you doing? – are often useful in purpose of getting the student to think and reflect and start talking of his/her on-going work. This type of questions has often the effect that a good dialogue emerges. As a supervisor, it is good to listen and keep oneself expectant and try not to interrupt or direct the doctoral student too much. The intention should be to avoid tutoring too much – it should be the doctoral students’ own product, which is going to constitute the final result.

However, the supervisor needs to make sure that the doctoral student understands. The supervisor should show engagement, give encouragement, and try to make the research student himself/herself arrive at suggestions regarding how to proceed. It is a question of making the student to talk – “think out loud” – and independently bring up thoughts and formulate in his/her own words in order to increase the doctoral student’s engagement and understanding. As a supervisor, it is an important task to try to make out how the doctoral student thinks and understands his/her research assignment and how the student has acquired adequate knowledge for accomplishing his/her work.

Feedback at the end of the meeting

At the end of the supervision meeting, feedback is given and the supervisor summarises what has been said. The supervisor brings up what he/she thinks is good and what needs further development or enhancement. With the doctoral student’s own suggestions as a starting point, the meeting is concluded by making a plan and structure for the next supervision meeting. It is usually a good strategy to work with intermediate goals and plans of action. Occasionally, it can be useful to make an evaluation against the agreement/contract and the individual study plan, which makes it easier to see that the work proceeds as planned. The agreement and the study plan can be adjusted in a well thought-out way as need arises.

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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