Tips on Choosing Your Supervisor

As has been established, the academic research committee of your college or university which approves your research proposal has the final say in the appointment of your supervisor. However, you do have a voice in this so bear in mind the following tips when you are selecting the supervisor you would like in an ideal world:

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  • If you are intending to undertake your Ph.D. research at the college or university where you previously studied as an undergraduate or Masters student then you will be familiar with the academic staff and their specialities: this should help you to make an informed decision, especially on which of the staff you feel you will have the most chance of working with successfully.
  • If your college or university has a world-renowned expert in your field on the staff it would be very foolish not to approach them first. However, be aware that someone of such eminence is unlikely to be able to devote the time required to supervise your thesis – many leading academics travel extensively addressing academic conferences etc. for one thing – so it might be better to consult this person from time to time (and use their books in your thesis) but look elsewhere, to a more experienced teacher, perhaps, for your supervisor.
  • The ideal supervisor is a senior lecturer in the department where you are intending to conduct your research as they will have considerable experience in teaching all levels of degree and will also have conducted research themselves. This is an excellent combination in a supervisor for your thesis.
  • Remember, however, that although you very much want a particular person to act as supervisor for you during your Ph.D. thesis, they may not agree to take on the task. If this happens, do not be too discouraged or indeed offended. There may be a very simple reason why they have refused, for example lack of time, personal commitments, having taken on sufficient supervisory roles already, to name just a few. The best thing to do in this situation is to ask the person who was your first choice to recommend someone else for you.
  • The main thing to bear in mind is that popularity is far less important than suitability and although you do need to bear in mind the importance of being able to work with your supervisor, this should not be your prime directive.

Remember, that whoever you choose must have the final approval of the research committee of your college or university before the appointment is made official.

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