Working with my supervisors

What is the role of my supervisors?

There are a number of people who will support you throughout your graduate research studies including your supervisor(s) and advisory committee. The roles and responsibilities of supervisors and advisory committee members are outlined in the Graduate Research Training Policy.

Your advisory committee should comprise at least three people, including the advisory committee chair and your supervisors and be established at commencement. The committee has both a formal role in monitoring the progress of your research project and an informal role in providing you with support and advice. If you are experiencing problems or have matters that you feel you cannot raise with your supervisors, you should consult an advisory committee member in the first instance.

Developing good professional working relationships between yourself and your supervisors is essential. You should meet with your supervisors as agreed, at least monthly.

How can I build an effective relationship with my supervisors?

It is important to understand that as a graduate research student, you are expected to be self-motivated and proactive in conducting your research, planning and producing your thesis and, in some disciplines, your creative works. Your supervisors are there to assist and support you in your study, to provide helpful feedback and to ensure you stay on track, but they are not expected to take charge of your research or project.

Understanding each of your individual roles and your personal styles is crucial to an effective relationship between your supervisors and yourself. Discuss this with your supervisors.

You're strongly encouraged to participate in the Postgraduate Essentials course, Strategies for a Successful Start to your PhD. Designed for commencing graduate researchers, the course covers the ins and outs of setting up a successful working relationship with your supervisors.

PGE 1 is only one module in the Grad Space, which has been purpose built to provide 24/7 online support and information for graduate researchers, and includes modules on attending your first conference, publications, and PGE 2 – Postgraduate Essentials: Completion and Beyond, which focuses on the second half of the PhD.

Read the Checklist for graduate researchers and their supervisors for a list of topics you should discuss with your supervisors.

How can I ensure I'm communicating effectively with my supervisors?

Successful communication is the key to building a strong professional relationship with your supervisors. Understanding different communication styles and setting expectations for the way you and your supervisors will communicate is essential, not only to your working relationship, but also to the successful navigation of your degree.

Some University resources that help you build a productive working relationship are as follows:

How can I resolve problems with my supervisors?

If you have an issue with your supervisor that you feel is becoming problematic, read about resolving problems.

How can I change my supervisors?

You may wish to change the makeup of your supervisory panel as your research progresses. Check your current supervisors, or apply to change your current supervisors.