Working with my supervisors

What is the role of my supervisors?

Your supervision team, with the support of the advisory committee, will:

  • Guide and support you through all of the stages of candidature and ensure that you have access to necessary resources and facilities to complete your research project.
  • Assist you to develop your research topic, questions, methodology, and milestones required for successful completion.
  • Provide constructive feedback on your written work and oral presentations within a reasonable agreed timeframe and provide detailed, specific, and constructive feedback on thesis drafts.
  • Mentor you through the research process, providing support as you undertake new or unfamiliar tasks; and ensure that administrative tasks such as ethics applications are completed or responded to in a timely way.
  • Maintain an agreed schedule of regular individual meetings with you.
  • Help you identify appropriate skills training and professional development opportunities, such as academic skills, external engagement (internships, industry mentoring programs), sessional teaching, and PhD Program participation.
  • Help you to grow your professional networks by encouraging and supporting you to engage with the research community locally and internationally. For example, by attending conferences and meetings, meeting with other academics, other graduate researchers, and industry partners.
  • Be accessible to a reasonable extent via email and other online tools or in person, should support be needed outside of the agreed meeting schedule.
  • Promptly attend to administrative tasks such as progress reviews, requests for leave of absence, or candidature variations.
  • Be familiar with, introduce you to, and provide advice on all relevant University policies, including the Graduate Research Training Policy and those on the conduct of research, ethical requirements, safe working practices, intellectual property and authorship.
  • Adhere to the Principles of Respectful Supervisory Relationships and be considerate of wellbeing; and, where appropriate, alert you to wellbeing services.
  • Advise on where to seek confidential advice and explain the process of making a formal complaint if difficult situations cannot be resolved; and understand that you may consult other individuals, such as the Advisory Committee chair or confidential advisors, if you wish to raise any concerns.

Different members of your supervision team will contribute to your supervision in different ways, but should work as a team to support you.

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 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 issues 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. When you start your course, as part of orientation and induction, you and your supervisors should complete the Supervisory Agreement to formalise expectations. This agreement can be reviewed and updated as needed throughout your candidature and attached to your annual progress review.

The roles and responsibilities of supervisors and advisory committee members are also outlined in the Graduate Research Training Policy.

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 can also watch the below 'Working with Supervisors' video from the Melbourne Centre for the study of Higher Education for advice.

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.

If at any stage you feel you have encountered an issue that is a challenge to maintaining a strong professional relationship or there is a difference of opinion or miscommunication, please take a look at our advice on resolving issues.

How can I change my supervisors?

For any number of reasons, you may wish to change the makeup of your supervisory panel as your research progresses. You may apply to change your current supervisors is an option available to you. Please consider careful your reasons for requesting the change and the stage of candidature you are at before submitting the request.  Where possible discuss any issues with your supervisors before requesting a change.