Graduate School of Social and Behavioural Sciences
Golden rules in PhD supervision at FSW
Being a supervisor is a demanding job. With these golden rules in mind, you'll do just fine. You can keep reading below, or you can download the PDF in which you find a visual representation on the rules.
Be aware that all PhD candidates are different, with their own individual story, culture, competences and needs.
Being a supervisor is a demanding job. There is no template for supervision. Keep an open mind and adapt to the PhD candidate. Co-supervision can be difficult. Ensure that you come to a joint view on the process so that the PhD candidate is not left in a quandary.
Be aware that doing a PhD is a lengthy process that requires long-term commitment from both sides.
PhD candidates need to feel that you care about the project’s progress and outcome. Even if the project is meant to develop the candidate’s competences, you are also involved in this journey, and your input on the project, topic or execution is essential. Take responsibility for the project. Be up to date and collect material with which you can give your PhD candidate valuable scientific input.
Be aware that your regular availability is key to the success of the project.
As part of your responsibility as a supervisor, you are to take initiative in planning regular supervision meetings. You are also expected to, in general, be
sufficiently available to the PhD candidate in a way that is mutually beneficial, as well as professional. You should consider that, due to personal
circumstances, individual PhD candidates may have different needs/ restrictions, e.g., in terms of meeting hours.
Be consistent and clear
Be aware that the (perception of) research progress should be addressed. It is crucial to be open about your expectations from each other.
Doing research is, by definition, charting unknown territory. Thus, it is unavoidable that the research evolves, including the supervisor’s view of what the next step(s) should be. Be honest about this and show ownership of your changing views. Remember what you say and advise.
Be time aware
Be aware that realistic planning is essential for a PhD candidate.
Obviously, the plan as initially foreseen, will change during the course of the project. Be prepared for a change by thinking about a plan B when the original plan needs revision. Set short term goals and celebrate the successes with the PhD candidate. Make certain that the PhD candidate knows what, in terms of thesis content, is sufficient to graduate.
Be willing to receive feedback
Be aware that for any professional relationship to work, feedback must be a two-way exchange.
You should expect feedback from the PhD candidate just as the latter expects it from you. Be open to the feedback you receive and take it seriously. If no feedback is given, ask for it. You are encouraged to do so a couple of times a year, but in any case, during the yearly progress interview with the PhD candidate. Remember that your reaction on the feedback will have an impact on the openness of your discussions with the PhD candidate.
Be willing to give feedback
Be aware that a PhD candidate needs regular feedback that must be professional, objective, constructive, and balanced.
Feedback may have a large (emotional) impact on the PhD candidate, thus you should be cautious in choosing where and when to give feedback, especially when the feedback is person-oriented and would not benefit others. You should be aware of the cultural/ethnic/gender/etc. variation in the research group and should employ language that is inclusive and not hurtful to people with different backgrounds and traditions. Positive feedback is as important as
Be aware of stressors
Be aware that as a supervisor you are a role model for the PhD candidate, and should set a good example in terms of stress management.
Be aware that your (potentially unhealthy) work attitudes are easily seen as a professional standard. Stimulate the PhD candidates to take breaks. Be aware that the PhD candidate’s personal life story can affect their work.
Be future oriented
Be aware that a PhD student might need stimulation to think about a career after graduation.
Many PhD candidates do not think much about their next career step before their last year, nor do they know much about what comes after the PhD, especially outside academia. Having no prospects for future career development triggers and increases stress. Thus, it is very important to timely discuss
this point with your PhD candidate. Make your professional network available to your PhD candidates.