- Postgraduate researchers
- Premia- resources for disabled researchers
- Practicalities of completing a doctorate
- At the start
- Starting supervision
The key relationship throughout your research degree is the one you have with your supervisors. They are there as mentors and guides. At best the relationship will be, or become, a partnership where each values and ulitises the knowledge, insight, expertise and creativity of the others.
It is good if that relationship gets off to a productive start. While your confidence and autonomy will inevitably grow within the partnership, it is helpful if each understands the role and responsibilities they have from the beginning of your research.
There is much general information and advice on the Vitae website about supervision and establishing key relationships. If you have disclosed your disability at application or on registration, your supervisory team will probably have been informed in advance about any requirements. If so, then it is important that you discuss the issues with them - to see what has been done to anticipate your requirements or to enable appropriate adjustments to be made. If they are unaware of your requirements, you need to consider making them aware yourself.
Postgraduate Researcher's advice
This is what a deaf PGR wrote for this programme:
‘I think it is very important to realise that the only person who can make things happen is yourself: if you go everywhere expecting everyone you meet to automatically understand your needs and your problems, then nothing will be done to help you. People without prior experience of a disability won't understand problems or foresee difficulties unless they are told what to expect.
If, on applying, you have no idea what sort of problems you may come up against, then visit the department and talk to your prospective supervisor and colleagues about what is expected of you. List all the possible difficulties you think you may have and discuss these with your supervisor before the start of your PhD. The earlier you identify your needs, the sooner they can be dealt with...
Be open about your disability with people. For example, if, like me, you have a hearing loss which is not noticeable either by speech or large, protruding hearing aids, then tell people why you have difficulty talking to them. Chances are that if you don't explain they'll think you're pretty rude or anti-social, and when you work in a university department on a professional level then you want to be making friends, not enemies: after all, you'll be seeing these people every day for at least three years!’
In the early stages of your research, you will each be working out the ground rules. Part of that is a mutual understanding of the barriers which research activities may present. To look at that issue, there are two case studies within this section - scenarios described by two PGRs during the Premier research programme, to protect their identity their names have been changed. Both had very different outcomes for the researchers involved. Read them and reflect on these questions:
- What do you think would be reasonable outcomes at the first meeting?
- What do you think actually happened?