The research supervisor is the key person in a student’s graduate degree program. Graduate education is greatly affected by the nature of the supervision and the quality of communication between graduate students and their supervisors. When students work closely and effectively with their graduate supervisors, they will improve the quality of their dissertations or theses and their educational experiences.
Supervisors should be available to help their graduate students at every stage, from formulation of their research projects through establishing methodologies and discussing results, to presentation and possible publication of dissertations. Graduate supervisors must also ensure that their students’ work meets the standards of the University and the academic discipline.
Some specific responsibilities of a graduate supervisor:
- provide the student with at least the minimum stipend specified by our program, if no other external funding is awarded to the student. In case the student receives external funding, the supervisor should strive to top up this award.
- assists the student with the selection and planning of a suitable and manageable research topic.
- is sufficiently familiar with the field of research to provide guidance and/or has a willingness to gain that familiarity before agreeing to act as a supervisor.
- is accessible to the student for consultation and discussion of the student’s academic progress and research. The frequency of meetings will vary according to the discipline, stage of work, nature of the project, independence of the student, full- or part-time status, etc. For many, weekly meetings are essential; for others, monthly meetings are satisfactory. In no case should interaction be less frequent than once per term.
- establishes (with input from the student and colleagues where appropriate) a supervisory committee, and convenes a meeting, at least annually, to evaluate the student’s progress.
- responds in a timely and thorough manner to written work submitted by the student, with constructive suggestions for improvement and continuation. The turnaround time for comments on written work should not normally exceed three weeks.
- makes arrangements to ensure continuity of supervision when the supervisor will be absent for extended periods, e.g. a month or longer.
- when necessary, assists the student in gaining access to facilities or research materials.
- ensures that the research environment is safe, healthy and free from harassment, discrimination and conflict. When there is a conflict in advice or when there are different expectations on the part of co-supervisors or members of the supervisory committee, the supervisor is expected to endeavor to achieve consensus and resolve the differences.
- assists the student in being aware of program requirements, deadlines, sources of funding, etc.
- encourages the student to make presentations of research results within the University and to outside scholarly or professional bodies as appropriate.
- encourages the student to finish up when it would not be in the student’s best interests to extend the program of studies.
- acknowledges appropriately the contributions of the student in presentations and in published material, in many cases via joint authorship.
- ensures that recommendations for external examiners of doctoral dissertations are made to the Graduate Program Advisor and forwarded to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in a timely manner.
- assists the student to comply with any changes that need to be made to the thesis after the thesis or dissertation defense.
University Policy 85 requires that research conditions for all involved in a research team should be outlined in a letter from the principal investigator before team members become engaged.
Letters are to cover issues such as compensation, supervision, authorship, records of data, ownership and/or use of data, publication rights, and commercialization.
Below please find an example of an agreement letter between supervisor and graduate student. Supervisors may wish to adapt this to make it most appropriate for their discipline.
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