By Susan Carter
The other day I attended a doctoral morning tea with a panel of two doctoral candidates and one supervisor giving advice on how to manage your supervisor. The chair probed with questions about different stages of doctoral writing. Some foundational advice came from the supervisor, who noted that human beings were all different (that is not too profound, yet advice on good practice often does not take account of individual difference). Her main point was that because of difference, clear communication was important. She had found that what worked well with one student did not work well with another, and that only open communication enables a good relationship. The doctoral candidates had some anecdotes of their own experience, and, by recounting them, showed that both they and their supervisors were indeed different in terms of work-protocol preference. One said that he hadn’t thought about managing his supervisor nor considered whether the relationship was okay until he heard his doctoral colleagues telling their tales and realised that he had a superb supervisor.
This post gives me a chance to give the advice to new doctoral students on managing their supervisors that I would have given had I been invited onto the panel. I’m keen to do this because having worked extensively with both doctoral students and supervisors, and researched doctoral writing exchanges, I know how important a good relationship is: it affects peresonal wellbeing over four years or so. And doctoral students have a part to play in figuring out the protocols for working together happily. Continue reading