You and your supervisor

Dear all

RRDP session: “You and your supervisor”
Tuesday 21 January 2020, 10:00-12:30, Chancellor’s, room G11

We will discuss this topic and others in the group discussion on Tuesdays, 11:00-12pm, in Old Whiteknights House, room G12.

If you have any questions about topics related to your doctoral research you can email


Communicating effectively with your supervisor

The communication with the supervisor has a significant impact on how the research develops.

It can influence performance and progress, as well as how confident you feel about your work.

Ideally, all doctoral researchers can establish rapport and a positive communication process with their supervisors and can work well on their research.

The first few meetings should be dedicated to clarifying roles and expectations, setting goals as well as agreeing to monitor progress regularly. Learning about each other’s ways of working will increase understanding and foster the development of a collaborative relationship.

However, some doctoral researchers experience some difficulties in establishing a good working relationship. Several factors can influence the communication process. For example, it can be difficult to arrange regular meetings due to supervisors’ busy schedules.

Or perhaps in meetings, you get the impression that your supervisor may think your work is not going well. This may leave you feeling that your work is not good enough.

Or,  when your supervisor offers suggestions to improve your experiments or to use a different method for your data analysis, you may wonder if you have the autonomy to decide the direction of your research.

When there are different points of view about your research, and if meanings are not clarified, it can lead to misunderstandings. It is essential to address differences promptly to prevent them from having a negative impact on the working relationship.

Dealing with concerns

If you have concerns about differences of opinion, or about the direction of your research, ask your supervisor for a meeting to discuss your concerns.

It is possible that your supervisor is not aware of how you are feeling. Supervisors normally expect that you can work out any issues and that you will ask for guidance when required.

Take the first step and contact your supervisor to arrange a meeting. Prepare for the meeting so that you know what you want to discuss. Prioritise the issues you would like to address and focus on the most important ones.
Maintain a flexible attitude and check any assumptions that could prevent understanding.

You can prepare for your meetings by discussing the issues with a trusted friend. This can help to clarify the key messages, identify any assumptions, and focus on finding solutions.

It is best not to leave these issues unaddressed as they can soon grow into serious problems.

If you do not feel you can approach your supervisor you can contact the Programme Director for guidance. You can find more information on the Graduate School website.

If you have any questions about this topic you can email