- Supervisors & managers
- Premia - making research education accessible
- Supervising disabled researchers - Premia
- Supporting researchers to write their thesis
- Making reasonable adjustments - case studies
Making reasonable adjustments - case studies
Researchers who have difficulties in writing because they are, for example, pre-lingually deaf or have dyslexia, are not incapable of writing a thesis. As one supervisor said the key questions are:
‘how do we get through this and around this and enable him to achieve his potential?
how is it possible to support a researcher without crossing the line and ‘doing it for them?'
Here are some scenarios. Think through what reasonable adjustments can be made to supervisory practice whilst maintaining academic standards and encouraging independent thinking. Some suggestions are made for each scenario in separate pages on the right-hand menu.
- Kathryn has dyslexia and she has profound difficulties in writing. She discloses this to you at her interview. She uses voice-activated software, but the whole process of writing takes considerable length of time. The software does not recognise a lot of the technical language involved in her research area. She tends to panic about getting behind with her work.
- Barry is Deaf and a BSL user. Sentence structure in early draft chapters is inconsistent and it is difficult for you to understand his arguments. His grasp of the subject terminology is poor. Working through his BSL/English interpreter, it is clear that his thinking, ideas and proposal are sound. He gained a first in his degree at another university.
- Veronique has low energy levels and gets very tired when writing for long periods of time. Her concentration is poor and she finds many research activities hard to sustain because of her ME (myalgic encephalopathy)
- Glen has spelling difficulties caused by his dyslexia. The first draft of the literature review is riddled with mistakes. It is the first piece of his writing you have seen. How would you give feedback?
- Joe has mental health difficulties and his confidence in his own abilities is very low. He gained a first in his degree. He has put off several deadlines for submitting his first chapter to you. His explanation to you is that he does not think he has fully understood the results of his experiments although discussion with him shows that he has.
These are suggested ‘adjustments'. They are not definitive answers. It is essential to involve the researcher in the process of agreeing and reviewing adjustments to see if they are working effectively. They have the fullest information about their disability and can advise on their learning and support requirement.
A research supervisor interviewed as part of the Premia programme said:
‘I need my supervised students to continually tell me what they are doing, what their timetable is, where they've progressed. I would impose that expectation on all students and so I do on Toby. Toby's anxiety is about will he finish on time. He always feels he's not making enough progress. He's always trying to run before he can walk. I don't whether it's to do with his dyslexia but we are always telling him to slow down, not to worry, that he's actually making very good progress, you've got to put the work in on this and you've got to go deeper rather than faster.’