Your Supervisors' Responsibilities to You

Many new research students at first are unsure exactly what to expect from their supervisory team and the supervisory relationship. Both you and your supervisory team have specific responsibilities, and it is important that you understand what these are if your working relationship is to be effective.

Supervisor Responsibilities

Your supervisors have several overlapping roles – over the course of your research degree they will act as your mentor, trainer, supporter, critic, and fellow researcher. It is important that you understand the responsibilities your supervisors have so that you have clear expectations as to what your supervisory team is – and is not – there for. That understanding will provide you with a foundation for building an effective working relationship with your supervisors.

The most important thing is to recognise that your supervisors are not there to tell you what to do every step of the way. A research degree is an independent research project and as a research student you are responsible for its success. You will be expected to show that you can plan and manage your work, develop and communicate your ideas, and deliver on time a thesis of an appropriate standard. Your research degree is very much down to you.

That is not to say though that your supervisors are not there to help, but the help that they provide will be quite specific. Your supervisors are there to provide advice on the ideas that you develop, to give you feedback on your progress, and to help you develop your competencies as a researcher.

Providing Advice and Guidance

Your supervisors will provide advice and guidance to help you keep your research on track, but the responsibility for developing your work rests with you. Your supervisors will expect you to have your own ideas and your own solutions to problems. Your supervisors will provide advice on these.

In particular, you supervisors will provide advice and guidance to help you:

  • develop appropriate research practice and refine your plans and ideas
  • find and use relevant literature
  • understand relevant rules and regulations

But of course, the responsibility is on you to follow that advice. It can be very easy to hear positive comments and overlook the negative ones. It is important that you do not do this with the advice that your supervisors offer. Make time to reflect on the advice that your supervisors provide and take seriously any suggestions that they make.

Providing Feedback on Your Work and Progress

In addition to providing advice and guidance on your plans and ideas, your supervisors will provide feedback on your completed work and progress. You supervisors will provide feedback through:

  • formal supervisory meetings
  • comments on draft written work and provisional findings/results
  • reviewing your thesis before submission for examination

It is important that you keep an accurate record of the feedback that your supervisors provide and this will be invaluable as you come to prepare the final draft of your thesis for submission. However, you also need to be considerate when seeking feedback. If you are submitting draft written work or provisional findings/results for comment, make sure that this is well organised and presented – draft written work should be thoroughly proof read and spelling and other errors should be removed before it is submitted while provisional findings/results should be accurate and clearly labelled or described as appropriate. You also need to make sure that you allow your supervisors sufficient time to provide you with feedback – allow plenty of time for your supervisors to read and comment on your work.

Enabling Your Skills and Career Development

Developing yourself and your skills is a big part of a research degree programme. Your supervisors will help you to do this by:

  • working with you to develop an appropriate training plan
  • providing coaching or training in research skills relevant to your work
  • helping you understand the importance of a broad based training programme including transferable skills that enhance your employability

Your supervisors will have a particular interest in making sure that you develop the skills you will need to complete your research degree, but it is important that you also look to develop your transferable skills such as communication skills, personal leadership, and team working. You will also need to make sure that your time spent on training activities is balanced against your primary need to complete your research degree on time.

You and Your Supervisors - Making Supervision Work for You

Graduate School Logo

Share this page: