Starting Research Supervision

Getting Started as a Research Supervisor

Research supervision is a complex form of teaching that involves a supervisor taking on a number of roles and responsibilities, often requiring adaptation over the life cycle of the doctorate. An important first step with new doctoral students is to engage in open discussion about working styles, practices, roles and responsibilities, and expectations that you have of them and they have of you. As the doctorate progresses, this discussion should be revisited and practices adapted. UCD’s guide to roles and responsibilities is highlighted in the Academic Regulations.

Establishing the student–supervisor relationship

Good, open communication is the key to managing the relationship between the supervisor and graduate research student. At the beginning of the research programme, both parties should negotiate how the relationship will function.

Conflict or tension can arise in situations where the expectations of the supervisor and/or student are unclear or mismatched, creating a common stumbling block for student progression. A thorough understanding of each person’s role is therefore critical to productive learning and successful outcomes.

As research supervisor, it is important that you highlight the expectations that you and the University have of the student and facilitate an open discussion where they can discuss their expectations of you as their supervisor.

Further information can be found in the Policy for Supervision of Research Degree Students.

Tips for establishing and clarifying expectations

Some of the areas that require clarification of mutual expectations include:

  • Supervisor’s style / approach to supervision
  • Format and frequency of supervision meetings
  • Provision of feedback (written or oral, and frequency)
  • Roles of RSP members
  • Monitoring of progress
  • Transfer Assessment formats and requirements
  • Progression milestones
  • Preferred forms of communication
  • Methods of dissemination of research
  • Ethics

Supervisors should also highlight that expectations may/will change between parties as the candidature progresses and that this topic should be revisited at key stages in the doctoral life cycle.

Key Resources 

Checklist for Starting Supervision at UCD

Checklist for Starting as a Research Student in UCD

Appendix 2: Guidelines for good practice between research students and supervisors in the Graduate Research Student Handbook

Sample discussion points between supervisor and student

  • What is a doctoral thesis?
  • What is the UCD structured PhD?
  • How will the doctorate be examined?
  • What is meant by original contribution?
  • Are there any good examples of doctoral theses in this discipline that the student could look at?
  • Clarification of programme, student and supervisor expectations and responsibilities
  • Are ethical considerations required in this research project?
  • Who are the other members of the Research Studies Panel (RSP), what role does each member play and how often should the student meet the RSP?
  • How will meetings be conducted (frequency, structure etc.)?
  • What is the supervisor, student and University’s roles and responsibilities?
  • What is the supervisors working style? What can the student expect, limits of contribution or direction given by supervisor or required from student
  • How will progress of the research be monitored?
  • How will written work be managed? For example, will it be submitted in draft or completed form? How frequently will feedback be provided? Will feedback be provided in written form?
  • How will the research be disseminated?
  • Authorship and Intellectual Property
  • How is the STA (Stage Transfer Assessment) structured, when will it take place and what will be assessed?
  • What is the membership of the TAP (Transfer Assessment Panel)?
  • What supports are available to Doctoral students in UCD?
  • What training is required to support the student’s research and professional development?
  • Where can administrative issues be resolved?
  • Who is the Graduate Research Contact for this School?
  • Academic misconduct
  • Conflict resolution processes at UCD
  • Social and cultural activities for doctoral students in UCD

Note: All new academics to UCD will be required to undertake a Research Supervisor Induction Session. Information regarding these sessions will normally be communicated to new staff by HR. or via their respective Colleges.

Next page: Effective research supervision strategies