Relationship with Supervisor for Getting Distinction in Dissertation


Your relationship with your supervisor throughout the production of your dissertation is likely to be an important one. It may, though, be a relationship that will vary from individual to individual, depending on factors such as the following: You may be someone who feels you need more or less support. The level of support you need may vary as your research unfolds.

Your supervisor might have very clear requirements as to their expectations of the working relationship between you, or alternatively they may take a highly flexible approach.

Try to make a positive start with your supervisor and then do all you can to maintain this good working relationship. There are several things you can do to influence this: Those of you who are expected to develop your own dissertation proposal should avoid booking your first appointment with her or him without having done some preliminary thinking and research. It’s not really fair or reasonable to turn up and expect your supervisor to ‘present’ you with an idea or topic (although some disciplines do employ this system).


  • Be aware that your supervisor has many other things to do apart from supervising your project, which means they won’t necessarily be available ‘on demand’. You may have to wait a few days before you can meet her or him, and you need to allow for this when making your first and subsequent appointments.
  • Be flexible about the ways in which you communicate with your supervisor; be prepared to use a combination of face-to-face meetings, email and phone. Don’t bombard her or him with unnecessary communications, but don’t be afraid to get in touch if you really do need guidance either.

At your first meeting, agree some realistic dates by which you will have made specific and measurable progress on your project. You can then arrange subsequent meetings one at a time, as you and your supervisor feel you need them. When you next see your supervisor, make sure you have done (or mainly done!) what you said you would at the previous meeting. If your progress has been slow for some reason, ask for a postponement until another convenient date. Don’t get into the habit of postponing, though, as this may indicate that you are not on top of your project.

Take your supervisor’s feedback seriously and evaluate how you can use it. Sometimes, though, you may find that a suggestion is not really going to help your work overall, so don’t feel compelled to incorporate everything she or he says into the finished project. You may decide not to reveal all of the details of your argument and approach to your topic to your supervisor in advance of submitting your dissertation. This is not to say that you should deliberately conceal things; rather that whilst broad discussions of, say, approach, evidence and methodology can be valuable, it may ultimately be to your advantage if, when you submit your work, your supervisor reads much of your argument and ideas as if ‘for the first time’.

Don’t expect your supervisor to be your ‘proof reader’. Your supervisor may be willing to read an outline or plan of your project or perhaps in some cases a little more, but you cannot expect her or him to read your work and make corrections for you.

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