Saturday, 18 August 2018

How to Become a Doctorate: 5 Tips to Build Good Scholar-Supervisor Relationship


You are under an acclaimed person. He/she has travelled a lot, written extensively and knows in great detail about a lot many things. And, you are thankful to be working under him/her.


But you are hesitant and hardly discuss your hurdles in research and problems related to PhD.


Frankly, this is a case of a scholar failing PhD and not able to get the best out of their Supervisor.


Since, this problem widely persists and its normal to feel overwhelmed to have an eminent senior and master of a topic, I present to you 5 tips, following which you must be able to build a strong relationship with your supervisor (for convenience purpose I am going to call your supervisor Prof. Z)
  1. Contact Prof. Z Urgently- As soon as you receive via email or post, your letter of admission contact your supervisor the same day or at the most within 3 days. Do not wait for a week to pass and then contact and meet Prof. Z. Also, under any condition do not wait and expect a call from Prof. Z to meet you. The purpose is to meet Prof. Z and have an informal chat. Express your happiness and gratitude over the acceptance of your candidature. If Prof. Z was present in the interview board, then praise the questions Prof. Z particularly asked. Tell how interesting yet challenging they were. After all, who doesn't like a little buttering ! If you could not answer Prof. Z's interview questions well, then tell that you intend to take it up and have an indepth knowledge about it. Talk about your background, such as, where you and your family is from, what has been your educational qualifications, why and who motivated you for PhD, etc. Your first meeting with Prof. Z is a Meet-n-Greet. Try not to be too formal but be cautious of Z's stature. Before meeting, read Prof. Z's works and you can show your like towards a few. The main point behind the first meeting is to show how compassionate and motivated you are towards PhD and how much sincere you are going to be towards research. Always remember, you need Prof. Z and its not the other way round. Kick-start your relationship from day one on a friendly note and try to be comfortable with your supervisor because both of you are going to have long professional academic years together. Prof. Z needs to know your potential and how much can you be stretched.
  2. Set a Routine Meeting - "routine meeting" means that every Friday or once every 2 weeks you are meeting Prof. Z. Routine meetings are helpful for keeping you on track and Prof. Z is updated on your progress. Routine meetings as opposed to meeting suddenly after months keeps both of you away from unexpected information about each other. For instance, you applied for a field trip or plan to visit a university and they are demanding for a letter of recommendation urgently. You contacted to meet your supervisor and get to know that he is sick and cannot come to the department and neither access computer to type your recommendation letter. You never knew about your supervisor's health and that he is on leave for the past 10 days because you never bothered to have a regular meeting or inquire his whereabouts from time to time through different modes of communication i.e. email, calls, etc.
  3. Keep Your Supervisor Updated on your Progress - routine meetings also help in keeping Prof. Z updated on the progress of your research and how much you have written in thesis chapters. Keep submitting regularly your chapters and articles that you intend Z to read and give opinions on. Remember, that you have to take assistance and benefit from Z's knowledge and expertise. After submission, keep asking about whether Z has read it or not and what changes needs to be done. If you don't show your enthusiasm and make first move in making regular contacts, Prof. Z will also become lazy with your work and never take it as a priority. Remember, you are not the only one Prof. Z is teaching or supervising. You have to make yourself important to Z.
  4. Agenda Setting Prior to a Meeting - setting an agenda or noting down "points to discuss" before you and Prof. Z plan to meet will be of great help to both of you. Agenda setting will make your meeting fruitful and allow healthy discussion on the chosen topics of the day and not let doubts go unclear. You may keep the agendas to yourself noted in your notepad or email the agenda points to Professor a day before especially if Z needs to draft a recommendation letter for you and keep it ready.
  5. Be Obedient - you must show obedience to all your supervisor's instructions, notes on your writings, recommendations for any field trips, etc. Many times, your and Z's opinions wont match and the changes Prof. suggests will seem like injustice. But don't take it personally or think that Z hates your writings and is acting like a BigShot. Remember, whatever supervisor is saying is for your progress and betterment of your end product which is thesis. Your supervisor is only with you to make you a Doctorate. Secondly, obedience must be towards even a small thing like meetings. Do not cancel meetings or give excuses on a regular basis for not able to meet or submit something Prof. Z had asked you to. It is far more better to meet on the appointed date and tell why you couldn't work for the past week or so.

So, these are my 5 simple yet very effective tips for every PhD aspirant to not just get a head-start but also help in continuing the process of building a strong relationship with their supervisor.


Click to read step 8: Habits for Happy PhDying
Click to read the previous step 6: How to Effectively Utilize the First Year of PhD

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