As with any working relationship it is important to establish a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities. As a supervisor you will be working with a doctoral researcher and a wider team over three or more years. So, spending some time at the start of the process thinking about how these relationships will work can be valuable.
You may find the Managing and Supporting your Researcher model helpful in thinking about your supervision style.
The supervisory team
As a supervisor you will normally be part of a supervisory team, which may include research staff, a postgraduate tutor and others. This arrangement provides support for the researcher, but it can also cause confusion, particularly around where responsibilties lie. A doctoral researcher should have an identified single point of contact, normally the main supervisor. It should be clear to the researcher what the responsibilities of the other members of the team are and who the relevant contact is if the main supervisor is not available.
Involvement with a supervisory team can provide valuable staff development and grounding in the skills required to become an effective research supervisor. For supervision of your first doctoral researcher it is usual to have an experienced supervisor in the team to support you.
Relationship with the doctoral researcher
Make clear from the start, how you expect the relationship to operate. Ask your researcher for their expectations, and agree the following:
- What level of support you can provide, and what level of independence they will have
- How often you will meet - you may find you need to meet more frequently in the earlier stages and at critical stages in the process
- When and how you can be contacted - making yourself available and setting appropriate limits
- What other support you, or the department, will provide in terms of induction, training and development, introduction to the academic community, seminars and workshops
- Make sure your researcher has copies of all the relevant documents provided by the institution and understands their responsibilities. You should ensure that they are aware of the regulations on registration, upgrading, submission process and extension rules.
You may find Expectations in supervision a useful exercise to do together to explore your expectations and those of your student in terms of roles and responsibilities.
Clarifying rules and regulations
Talking through relevant rules and regulations with a doctoral researcher might be a useful focus for an early supervision. In particularly you might want to thinking about the following starting points.
- The QAA Code of Practice contains useful information about supervisory responsibilities, particularly in precepts 11 to 17 (p14-19).
- Your institution's code of practice for research degrees.
- Your institution's research ethics regulations and processes and how this might impact on their project.
- Intellectual property arrangements.