Information about supervision meetings, external supervisions, principles for supervision and what to do if problems arise.
The recommended frequency of supervision meetings is half an hour every two weeks for a full-time candidate and every four weeks for a part-time candidate. The supervisor should maintain a record of supervision meetings, consisting of the date of consultation, the issues considered and the decisions reached. These records are important memoranda in reviewing supervisory arrangements. More information about supervision can be found on the Graduate Research Hub Working with my supervisors web page.
Throughout their candidature students can expect support and guidance to be readily available from their school. If problems arise between candidates and their supervisor that cannot be resolved by consultation, the postgraduate coordinator or Head of School should be consulted. If a complex problem cannot be resolved satisfactorily within the school, candidates may seek additional advice from Graduate Research Hub Working with my supervisors web page or contact the Faculty of Arts. The University of Melbourne Graduate Student Association is the representative body for postgraduate students and provides advice, support and specialised assistance for the satisfactory resolution of grievances.
The principal supervisor for a research candidate must be a staff member of the University who has sole responsibility for the supervision of the thesis, however it may be desirable for the student to have more than one supervisor. An external supervisor will not normally be approved as the sole or principal supervisor but one may be appointed with the approval of the Head of School.
Principles for supervision
These principles should be read in conjunction with 'responsibilities of academic schools' on the Candidature guidelines web page. They are intended as a guide to overcoming problems which are known to impede progress.
- Supervisors undertaking research supervision for the first time will not usually be appointed sole supervisor
- Supervisors are expected to provide continuing guidance to research candidates on the research being undertaken and on meeting time-lines
- Supervision of research students is not only a complex teaching task, it should be regarded as a shared enterprise in which both supervisor and student have an intellectual investment. Proposed research projects should therefore be of mutual interest. Prospective supervisors should have a sufficient range of theoretical and methodological expertise to offer the student proper supervision. There should be adequate time to supervise when other academic commitments are taken into account
- The supervisor needs to be well acquainted with the candidate's academic background so that if the proposed project requires additional skills and knowledge, the candidate can be informed how these might be acquired.
- The supervisor should alert the commencing candidate to commonly encountered tasks, processes and standards expected of research in the particular field. This is a useful framework for helping the student to develop and refine a topic which can be researched and written up within the required time-frame
- Once the topic is refined to the satisfaction of the student and supervisor, the supervisor should assist the student to formulate a framework for the research and time estimates for the completion of various phases. Having such a framework, which may be modified as the research proceeds, gives a sense of focus, helps student and supervisor to check progress, and is often a useful early orientation to writing the thesis. The framework should be used to guide the student, but should not constrain the development of the research
- From the outset of candidature, supervisors and students should ensure they confer at appropriate and regular intervals. This is particularly vital in the first year and for part-time students. Such agreements may be re-negotiated from time to time as the candidature proceeds. Meetings may be minor and frequent and/or more formal and less frequent. In this context, it is helpful for the supervisor to make explicit the purpose of the meeting. It is a useful practice to keep a diary of supervisions with dates and details of discussions. In addition to informal meetings, it is important that major reviews take place at least six monthly in order that the student's achieved work can be assessed within the overall shape of the study and time-frame for completion. Both supervisor and student should then be in a position to be able to report when required on progress and to judge when some intervention may be desirable
- Early in a student's candidature, the supervisor must make an assessment of a student's written work. If the supervisor considers that further work is required in areas such as composition and grammar for the student to be successful in completing the thesis, the supervisor should then provide advice and assistance as to how an appropriate standard can be achieved. Such advice may include referral to units such as the Centre for Communication Skills, English as a Second Language, the Learning Skills Unit and the Planning and Academic Programs Unit, School of Graduate Research. The supervisor should continue to monitor the student's progress in order to resolve any on-going difficulties
- The supervisor is expected to read any written work thoroughly, in advance of meetings, and to provide regular feedback on the student's work, although a supervisor should not be obliged to read an excessive number of drafts of the same section or chapter. It is vital that criticism is given in a constructive, supportive and sensitive fashion. The supervisor needs to recognise that doing a research degree is an emotional as well as an intellectual commitment; students will be discouraged by continual harsh criticism. Supervision sessions should be structured so that it is relatively easy to exchange ideas
- The supervisor has a responsibility to ensure that both full-time and part-time candidates are included in the academic life of the school. Candidates should be required to present work-in-progress papers to their peers and academic staff. Candidates should be strongly encouraged to take part in school and/or inter-school seminars, conferences, informal functions and the like. Reports from conferences etc., should be conveyed to schools and research students. Postgraduates should be encouraged to publish their work, jointly with supervisors when appropriate. A supportive environment and a sense of collegiality are important influences, particularly for women, in timely completion of research projects
- At the beginning of the candidature the supervisor has the responsibility for initiating discussions with a view to making mutually satisfactory arrangements regarding intellectual property, including patents and authorship of any publications arising from the candidate's work. The head of school should be notified that these discussions have taken place. Arrangements which are made should reflect codes of practice with respect to authorship in the discipline. Arrangements should also reflect the responsibility of the supervisor in fostering the student's career
- Any restrictions on publication rights due to confidentiality requirements need to be clearly outlined at the outset. This particularly involves restrictions arising from registration of patents, and advice from the University Contracts Office may need to be sought to determine the period of disclosure of any results from the research
- Supervisors should ensure that they and the candidates under their supervision are familiar with the University's Code of Conduct for Research
- It is important not to lose sight of the personal dimension of the supervisory relationship. A candidate's progress may be impeded by personal crises to which the supervisor should be responsive. The supervisor should know where help might be sought within the University and what to do if there is a need to suspend candidature or negotiate an extension
- There are some instances when the supervisory relationship breaks down. In such cases, the supervisor should see to it through the head of school, the Faculty Research and Research Training Committee (Masters) or the Research Higher Degree Committee (PhD) if necessary, that other arrangements are made to the satisfaction of the student
- In view of the fact that women postgraduates sometimes encounter particular problems in relation to the research environment and the supervisory relationship, supervisors should actively support the University's policies and strategies on affirmative action and avoidance of sexual harassment