Research supervision

Supervision arrangements

Arrangements for Masters and PhD supervision are made through the Research coordinator (in table below) of your discipline. PhD students will be assigned a principal supervisor and an associate supervisor, while Masters students will usually work with one supervisor.

When you are writing a research thesis, your most significant contact in the School is your supervisor and it is important to develop a good working relationship with this person. The burden is on both you and your supervisor to come to an understanding of how best to accommodate specific needs. These can vary enormously, so please don't assume your supervisor has the direction of your research already mapped out for you.

Frequency of supervision

On average, most students meet a principal supervisor once or twice a month, but you may want more frequent consultations during the first six months of your candidature, as you establish and refine your topic, and during the final months, as you prepare your final draft for examination. The Arts Faculty's recommendation for supervision consultations is a half-hour meeting every two weeks for a full-time candidate and every four weeks for a part-time candidate. You should make it clear to your supervisor how frequently you wish to meet to discuss your work, and make appropriate appointments to do this. For example, at the beginning of each semester you and your supervisor may wish to arrange a regular monthly / fortnightly appointment so that both of you know what to expect over the coming six months. In general, you should make every effort to establish an understanding with your principal supervisor about frequency of consultations, what kind of advice or assistance you need, and so forth. One of the most common problems in higher degree research results from the student and the supervisor having different expectations of the relationship. Again, it is crucial that you talk to your supervisor about what you each expect and what you would find most helpful.

If you give your supervisor a draft of a chapter, a week might be a reasonable time between delivery of the draft and an interview to discuss your work. At peak teaching or marking periods in the undergraduate calendar, detailed feedback may take longer.

Ask your supervisor for assistance with establishing a bibliography for your topic, for advice on obtaining Inter-Library Loan material, and about any aspect of the School or the University's operations, conferences, possible jobs, and so forth. Most importantly, don't hesitate to raise any doubts or anxieties about your work and its progress. If you run into difficulties at any stage, it is very important to keep in touch with your supervisor. Even if such difficulties are personal or financial, your supervisor will sometimes be able to advise how best to manage your candidature and the progress of your research in these circumstances.

If a PhD candidate does not complete within 4 years of equivalent full-time study, that candidate will lapse and not receive further supervision from the school unless and until s/he has submitted a full draft of the thesis to the program research coordinator and the latter has judged it capable of being brought to an examinable state within six months. In the latter case, the school will provide a maximum further six months supervision for the thesis.

Similarly, if an MA candidate does not complete within 2 years of equivalent full-time study, that candidate will lapse and not receive further supervision from the school unless and until s/he has submitted a full draft of the thesis to the program research coordinator and the latter has judged it capable of being brought to an examinable state within three months. In the latter case, the school will provide a maximum further three months supervision for the thesis.

Problems with supervision

If you experience any persistent difficulties with your supervision, or have questions or concerns that cannot be dealt with by your supervisor, you should in the first instance consult the Research Coordinator of your discipline. The School's Chair of Research and the Head of School are also available to graduate students by appointment and any concerns you bring to them will be dealt with sympathetically and with due confidentiality. In the unlikely event that a problem cannot be resolved satisfactorily within the school you may consult the Associate Dean of Arts (Research and Research Training), who can be contacted through the School of Culture and Communication Our staff web page.

Role of associate supervisor

While the principal supervisor has responsibility for supervision of your thesis, the associate supervisor will, at certain points in your candidature, make a substantial contribution. If your Principal Supervisor takes leave, your Associate Supervisor will take over the primary supervisory role. The Associate Supervisor's responsibilities also include the following:

  • At commencement the student and both supervisors meet to discuss the proposed research project. At this meeting, the role of the associate supervisor should be discussed
  • At 6-9 months, attend a meeting with the principal supervisor and the student to discuss the confirmation process. Read and provide feedback on a document of 2,000 words prepared as the basis for discussion at this meeting
  • At 9-12 months, read and comment on the report and chapter prepared for the confirmation meeting. Participate in the confirmation meeting
  • At the end of the second year, read and comment on two chapters from the student's thesis and attend an advisory panel meeting,
  • At the end of the third year, read and comment on the progress and materials submitted by the student and attend an advisory panel meeting
  • Prior to submission, read the thesis to ensure that it is "examinable"
  • From time to time, discuss the student's work with the principal supervisor to ensure that principal and associate supervisors are not giving the student mixed messages

Research Training Coordinators

Discipline Staff member Email
Art History and Art Curatorship Dr Susan Lowish susan.lowish@unimelb.edu.au
Arts and Cultural Management Dr Susan Lowish susan.lowish@unimelb.edu.au
Australian Indigenous Studies Assoc. Professor Chris Healy clhealy@unimelb.edu.au
Creative Writing Dr Eddie Paterson eddiep@unimelb.edu.au
English and Theatre Studies Assoc. Professor Anne Maxwell
Assoc. Professor Denise Varney
emaxwell@unimelb.edu.au
dvarney@unimelb.edu.au
Gender Studies Assoc. Professor Angela Ndalianis
Dr Fran Martin
angelan@unimelb.edu.au
f.martin@unimelb.edu.au
Media and Communications Dr Robert Hassan
Dr David Nolan
hassanr@unimelb.edu.au
d.nolan@unimelb.edu.au
Publishing and Communications Assoc. Professor Anne Maxwell
Assoc. Professor Denise Varney
Dr David Nolan
emaxwell@unimelb.edu.au
dvarney@unimelb.edu.au
d.nolan@unimelb.edu.au
Screen and Cultural Studies Assoc. Professor Chris Healy clhealy@unimelb.edu.au