Being organised and methodical while conducting your research

The role of the supervisor

Although a research project is an opportunity for you to work independently, you will usually be allocated a member of academic staff as a supervisor. Supervisors are there to help you shape your ideas and give you advice on how to conduct your research. They are not there to teach you the topic you have chosen to investigate: this is your project. They are, however, one of the resources that you can call on during your research.

Academics are busy people, so to get the most out of your supervisor you will need to be organised and to take responsibility for the relationship. It is not your supervisor’s job to chase you into completing your research, or to tell you how to manage the different stages of the project. To ensure that you get the most out of your supervisor you need to:

  • agree a timetable of meetings at the start of your project and stick to it
  • make sure that each meeting has a focus like “setting a research question”, “analysing the data”
  • send something that can form the basis of a discussion about your progress to your supervisor before each meeting. This could include your research plan, early results of your data collection or draft chapters
  • turn up on time to each meeting you have arranged. Do not assume that your supervisor is available at all times to see you
  • at the end of each supervision agree some action points for you to focus on before the next time you meet
  • keep a record of what you decide in supervision sessions.

If you are not happy with the way you are being supervised, explain why to your supervisor or discuss the issue with your personal tutor.