Supervisor - PhD candidate interactions ... not always easy

Potential sources of conflict between PhD candidates and supervisors | Get help and help yourself to resolve conflicts | More sources for conflict solution help

Potential sources of conflict between PhD candidates and supervisors

Why is it important to do reflections on research supervision?

• Supervisors can make or break a PhD student
• Communication between supervisor and student is key to project and thesis success
• ‘Concept’ of research supervision and own experience as doctoral student are key influences on supervisors’ approaches to supervision
• Not all students need the same supervision style

Predominant problems of PhD students with supervision

• Learning experience very little organized
• Confusion in the messages transmitted by the supervisor
• Expactations often not explicitly verbalized
• Limited feedback from supervisor
• Difficult relation with supervisor, not enough interaction to discuss progress and competences to be developed
• Feelings of isolation and stress



Get help and help yourself to resolve conflicts

First of all, here is a small presentation and summary of a workshop of the UNIL Graduate Campus that I visited a whole ago and found very useful; supposed to help PIs to understand their supervision style and to mediate between expectations of the supervisor and the supervised.
Research supervision: Supervisor - Student Relationships, Supervision Styles and a Little Impulse Towards Self-Reflection

In this presentation, you will find some questionnaires that can be useful to
a) set the stage in the beginning of the PhD thesis in terms of expectations on research supervision from both sides
b) set up in the beginning and update over the course of a thesis ("Memorandum of Understanding between Students and Supervisors"; MOU)
c) help students "plot" their progression through the supervisory experience and discuss this with their supervisor at regular intervals

Please suggest these aids to your supervisor and keep them preciously once filled; they can help you and the supervisor understand where you are and what maybe goes wrong between you.

Long the same vein, please see the article Of monsters and mentors: PhD disasters, and how to avoid them (Times Higher Education)


More sources for conflict solution help

The UNIL Graduate Campus offers:
- annual thesis surveys
- thesis supervision workshops

The UNIGE Graduate Campus is about to develop similar offers.

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Tel. +41 21 692 40 14
Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois (CHUV) Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG) Université de Genève Université de Lausanne École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)