Supervising the Doctorate: A Guide to Success

Supervising the Doctorate: A Guide to Success

Supervising the Doctorate: A Guide to Success

Supervising the Doctorate: A Guide to Success


"This publication represents a thorough updating of an earlier book that was, in its own right, very useful. The second a significant improvement on its predecessor and I cannot recommend it highly enough for novice or experienced doctoral supervisors."
Journal of Adult and Continuing Education
  • How can I get my students to produce good theses on time?
  • My last student failed! What could I have done to prevent it?
  • I am supposed to train the new supervisors in my faculty; where can I get some good ideas?
This new edition of Supervising the Doctorate still provides everything you ever wanted to know about the doctoral supervision but were afraid to ask! It includes:
  • New material on supervising professional doctoral theses
  • A new chapter on the changing policy context in higher education
  • Latest research findings
  • Experiential material from staff development sessions throughout the United Kingdom and New Zealand
Now that supervisor training is compulsory, this practical, no-nonsense handbook is essential reading for both the novice and the experienced higher degree supervisor. For novices there is a developmental sequence of advice, guiding them through all stages of supervision from the first meeting to the viva and beyond. For experienced supervisors there are fresh ideas on how to improve practice and solve problems.

Grounded in research, this book is invaluable to academics in all disciplines. At a time when there is increasing pressure to ensure 'quality' provision, to improve the doctoral completion rate, and to turn out employable graduates, the need for a practical guide is obvious. An essential item for every academic's bookshelf.


When I was at Flanborough College, examining for the professorial
theses in York University, there was a man who sent in a very interesting
paper on a historical subject. It was a most persuasive piece of argument,
only I happened to know that the whole contention was quite untrue.

(Sayers 1972: 330)

Supervising doctoral students is one of the most satisfying things that anyone in higher education can do. Watching a new scholar become an independent researcher, conduct a project, write up the results, present them at a conference and see the first publications is a wonderful experience. Guiding a new scholar into your specialism is intrinsically rewarding and the best way to ensure that your own work echoes down to the next generation and beyond. Building up a research group, with doctoral students and post-docs (postdoctoral fellows) is even more rewarding. Our aim in this book is to convey the joys of successful supervision, offer advice on how to maximize the chances of your students being successful, and foreshadow problems that can arise, by forewarning you and offering you both preventive measures and remedial ones. We hope that experienced supervisors can learn from the book, although newcomers are its main target. Our basic philosophy is that good, pleasurable supervision is based on self-consciousness, not intuition or flying by the seat of the pants. The whole idea of the book is that successful, pleasurable higher-degree supervision is based on making explicit to yourself, and to the students, what the processes and issues are. Many of the problems that arise stem from supervisors thinking that students know things they do not know, or vice versa, or both.

We have organized the book so that it follows the progress of a student through from starting out as a doctoral student to careers after the viva voce examination. Not all theses proceed in the linear way in which we have organized the book, but the linear structure works well enough for the book. Thus we start with how to ensure that the students get off to a good start, and end those chapters relevant directly to the process of supervision with the development of academic life after the viva. Then Chapter 11 opens up with the place of doctoral supervision in the career of the lecturer, and the role of the graduates in the academic department and the wider university. These issues take us to considerations beyond the intrinsic satisfaction of higherdegree supervision. Readers of this book will be acutely aware of the extrinsic . . .

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