You and your supervisors

Your supervisors are the most important resource provided by the University to support you during your research degree candidature.

All students are expected to have a supervisory panel. Panels make provision for expert and multidisciplinary supervision teams, with the inclusion of advisors and research end-users where meaningful and appropriate. Panels consists of a minimum of 3 supervisors, composed as appropriate for each student's needs.

Defining your relationship with your supervisors

Every supervisory relationship is unique. Your supervisors will have expertise in your field of research and experience in conducting research. You can expect to learn from and be supported by them.

However, as a research degree student you are expected to assume control over and responsibility for your own research. Within a reasonably short period of time, you should know more about your specific topic than your supervisors. Your supervisors should not dominate or control the direction of your research.

You and your supervisors will have to work hard at establishing a comfortable relationship that strikes a balance between supervision as teaching and supervision as listening.


Your supervisors' role

Your supervisor should:

  • direct your work so that it is executed in a competent, scholarly manner
  • guide you in the right direction
  • assist you to meet set milestones and complete your study within set timeframes.

Within this role your supervisor will:

  • help you develop research skills
  • meet ethics and compliance requirements
  • complete Reviews of Progress and achieve the Research Degree Graduate Qualities.

Refer to Orientation for more information.

How to work with your supervisors

Have regular meetings

Make regular supervising appointments in advance - you and your supervisors are busy people. At your meetings you will need to establish with your supervisors:

  • how often and when you meet
  • whether you meet face-to-face or online
  • how long you spend in supervision sessions
  • an agenda and goals for the supervision sessions.

Never leave a supervisory session without setting a time for the next one.

Prepare for supervisory sessions

It is your responsibility to set the agenda for supervisory sessions. Give your supervisor some written material and advance notice of your agenda. Supervision is generally more productive and effective if you and your supervisor are adequately prepared.

  • Provide your supervisor with any readings which may form the background to the session (eg giving references to published writing or providing copies of your own or others' writing).
  • Let them know of any specific questions or issues you wish to raise.

Keep a record of supervisory sessions

Contact with your supervisor is part of your research so keep notes to inform your study.

Keep a record of agreements reached in supervisory sessions. Before you conclude a session, you and your supervisor should spend about 10 minutes recording in writing any consensus decisions that have a direct bearing on your research, including:

  •  time and date of the next supervisory session
  • tasks you have agreed to complete before the next supervisory session
  • tasks your supervisor will undertake before the next supervisory session.

Records should be typed and emailed to your supervisor following the meeting.

Keep in regular contact

Keep in touch with your supervisor, especially in the early stages of your candidature. You should meet in person or online, or email each other regularly.

Submit regular progress reports and drafts of your work

Try to submit draft material that is at an advanced and relatively 'polished' stage of development so your supervisor can focus on the content rather than correcting grammatical and typographic errors. Avoid resubmitting the same draft material several times.

Discuss your working relationship

Let your supervisor know how the supervisory relationship is working for you. Don't make your supervisor second-guess your needs.

If you feel your supervisor is being too 'laid back' and non-directive, say so. If you feel your supervisor is being too dominating and directive, say so. If you want more or less support than you are getting, ask for it. Ask your Research Degree Coordinator for help if you are having difficulties.

Keep all supervisors informed of your progress

Your supervisors are there to support you in your research, and need to be regularly informed of your progress. Should your principal supervisor be unable to continue supervising temporarily or permanently, it is expected that another member of your supervisory panel will assume that responsibility until an alternative supervisor is designated.

Be diligent, meet agreed deadlines and respect the multiple demands on your supervisors' time

You should assume responsibility for editing your work, or employ the aid of an editor. Your supervisors are not responsible for editing your work.

Changing your supervisor(s)

There is no guarantee that the people originally appointed to supervise your research will see it through to the end. It is a responsibility of the University wherever possible to ensure adequate and appropriate supervision throughout your period of candidature.

  1. Supervisors must inform the Research Degree Coordinator if they are unable to continue supervision temporarily or permanently.
  2. The Research Degree Coordinator must institute the necessary processes and secure an alternative supervisor.
  3. If you are aware of impending changes in your supervision arrangements, check with your supervisors and Research Degree Coordinator to ensure that alternative arrangements are put in place. 

A change of supervision form must be completed.