Supervising the Doctorate: A Guide to Success

By Sara Delamont; Paul Atkinson et al. | Go to book overview

6
Disagreeableness and danger: keeping up
student motivation

If you have put anything in hand, disagreeableness and danger will not
turn you back, and God forbid they should.

(Sayers 1972: 209)


Introduction

This chapter deals with one of the hardest and most diffuse tasks that faces the supervisor. PhD students very often go through sloughs of depression about debt and poverty, isolation, thesis problems, and poor employment prospects, which the supervisor may be able to alleviate. They also have problems with supervision which the supervisor may not recognize, and may or may not be able to solve. Take this story about an anthropology student, told to us by Dr Feste (University of Kingford).

Yes, this is the woman I’m seeing through to the end, who’s actually
been supervised as far as I can tell, by everyone else in the department
… Well, she started with not a very coherent idea with Jeremy Styles, I
think – she’s doing ideas of procreation and birth – and it wasn’t coher-
ent when she started out, and she was moved on to both Ian Felgate and
Ralph Dorroway, both of whom she did not get on very well with, and
she seems to have been through several other people, and ended up
with Carolyn Brackenberry after seven or eight years – it’s been a long
drawn-out saga, and Carolyn’s managed to get her through to the point
where she’s almost ready to submit. Everything’s just about ready in
draft, and she [Carolyn] had to go on leave, so rather than saying ‘take
another nine months’ she arranged to bring her to me, so that she
would finish by 30 June. Which is the ESRC deadline, although she’s
missed it by several years, as far as I can tell. The department had more
or less written her off, and its quite clear from her fieldwork material, as
Carolyn Brackenberry pointed out, that she was not adequately super-
vised at various points, so that questions the supervisor would have said,
‘Have you asked your women this?’ particularly as she was right here in
Scotland, are missing from the material, because there was no one there
to suggest things, so there were gaps, which even if you’re in the field,
you write to your supervisor and get a letter back saying, ‘Try this’ etc.

-81-

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