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How To Get The Best Out Of Your PhD Supervisor

A PhD supervisor plays a central role throughout your doctorate. He is the captain of your PhD journey who guides and supports you in times of difficulties. He enlightens you with new ideas and motivates you to give your best and achieve your academic goals.


A major factor that decides the fate of this journey is your relationship with your supervisor. If it’s good, your research and thesis will be carried out smoothly but if it isn’t quite well then you will probably be going to have a hard time getting along.

Some reasons for a bad relationship with your supervisor may include a personality clash. Sometimes your supervisor may constantly ask you to redesign and rewrite portions of your thesis without solid reasons, or maybe he doesn’t allocate adequate time for meeting and supervising you properly.


Whatever may the reason be building a decent professional bond with your supervisor is very important for you to research peacefully. It will not only guide you in the right direction but may also help you complete your PhD timely.

To avoid having a tough time with your supervisor here are some tips you can follow:


1. Set Scheduled Meetings:


It is of utmost importance to decide and schedule meetings with your supervisor in the first meetup. It can be weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly depending on your work requirements and availability. It will not only help you to keep in touch with your supervisor regularly, but he will also be available on the allocated time slots, and you won’t have to ask him again and again for it.

Moreover, setting early expectations from your thesis is also essential. You need to discuss what you and your supervisor expect from this research at the end so that you may have clear pathways for your work.


2. Take Charge Of Your Work:


If your supervisor is not providing the required amount of time and essential guidance then it is your duty to take charge of your work instead of sitting idle. You should continue researching on your own and set directions for yourself that where you want to take your thesis.


Moreover, If you are encountering any problems during your research, first work on them by yourself and find possible solutions. This way at the time of meeting your supervisor, you can discuss those things with him and not waste your time further by waiting for his instructions.

(Robert Shafer, 1921) “The truth is that the only education is self-education. Teachers can impart information and make suggestions, but they are like signposts — they can only by example and precept point out the way. A sign-post is of no earthly use unless the person who consults it wants to go somewhere”.


3. Overcome Emotions:


Sometimes, you work hard on your research for days and expect a positive remark from your supervisor. But to your surprise, he starts pointing out flaws in this work. He may suggest you to change the topic altogether or redo all the work from scratch. This can be quite upsetting for you. Disheartened by the feedback you may start arguing with him which worsens the situation for you.


The right way to handle this scenario is to keep calm and control your emotions. First, you need to ask reasons for his disapproval and then discuss them with him logically. This way you’ll not only tackle his concerns but also be able to defend your work reasonably.


“Always be ready for criticism for there shall always be people who shall be ready always to criticize you. The positive lesson you learn from your critics is the most important thing which matters and not just the matter!” (Ernest Agyemang Yeboah)


4. Communicate Effectively Through Assertiveness:


While meeting your PhD supervisor it is very important to clarify all your doubts and have your questions answered. For this, you need to communicate effectively with him. Be confident and straightforward while discussing your concerns. There’s no point in leaving your supervisor’s office with confusion and unclear concepts. One way to do this is to summarize important points of the meeting before leaving.

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life”. (Brian Tracy)


If you don’t agree upon a certain point with your supervisor you shouldn’t be either passive or aggressive about it. Both of these behaviors will only harm you and your thesis. The right way to elaborate your concern is by first listening actively to your supervisor and then politely presenting your viewpoint with confidence. This is called assertiveness and is a very effective way to tackle bossy people.


5. Be Prepared For Meetings:


Supervisors are super busy persons. They have to manage their own research, lectures, multiple projects, and work related to academia at the same time. Having a meeting to discuss your progress or problems is one of the many jobs he has to do and isn’t his primary concern. Making the most out of your meetings with your supervisors depends solely on you.


Therefore, take it as an opportunity and prepare for the meeting by setting the meeting agenda, points to be discussed and goals to be achieved beforehand. You should equip yourself with the required amount of knowledge. Some preparation, before the meeting, will help you critically evaluate the problems you are facing and seek solutions for them from the supervisor.


Opportunity does not waste time with those who are unprepared.” (Idowu Koyenikan, Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability)


6. Mutual Respect Through Professionalism:


To build a healthy relationship with your supervisor it is necessary to develop mutual respect for each other. Not liking your supervisor for any reason is not an issue. The essential thing to do is to resolve personal differences and develop a professional bond with him. Without doing so none of you could work properly and produce fruitful research in the end. It is important for the supervisor and scholar to know that both of them are equally important for each other to grow professionally and productively.


According to Prof. Dr. José M. Torralba, Director-General of Universities and Research for Madrid Regional Government, “The better the future of the student, the better the future of both of them. One well-promoted student is the best way for the professor to assure future scientific networks, future collaboration, and future projects. Today’s students must be future partners. To promote your students is actually a way to promote yourself”.


7. Take Help From Other Mentors:


During PhD, you may have to face contradictory guidance from your supervisor. He may say one thing in the first meeting and when you work upon it, he may ask you to switch the whole topic. This may also happen in the case when you have more than one supervisor. Their suggestions and guidance may differ and contradict each other leaving you with a lot of confusion.


“Inconsistency among the overall recommendations of peer reviewers is common” (Wagner et al., 2003)

The best way to tackle this is to seek help from mentors that are expert in dealing with such situations. Scholars Professional Editing Group LLC is one such place that provides all-encompassing mentorship, consulting, and support services. We are dedicated to helping Ph.D. and professional doctorate candidates through every step of the journey. Through extensive editorial service, research assistance, dissertation consulting, and mentorship programs, doctoral candidates can expect to move through the rigorous steps of the doctoral process to successfully participate in the Commencement and hooding ceremony.


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