Successful supervision for PhD students – University of Copenhagen

Successful supervision

Supervision plays a crucial role in the PhD study. It is the supervisors role to contribute to teaching the PhD student how to think academically in the particular field and how to manage research processes.

10 tips for a great start

  • Arrange a kick-off meeting to discuss and align expectations. Be aware that needs may change during the PhD programme, so it might be necessary to adjust expectations after one or two years.
  • At one of the initial meetings, you and the PhD student could identify what you consider particularly interesting about the project so that both of you know where to focus your energy.
  • Take the time to build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect so that the PhD student feels free to discuss issues with you.
  • Formalise supervision meetings – agree on fixed times for meetings, and agree on their form and content.
  • Evaluate the supervision on a regular basis. What is needed and when? Are all parties satisfied with the process?
  • Organise the supervision so that the student has something tangible to work on.
  • The Four Cs: Feedback should be caring, concrete, constructive, and critical.
  • Implement mentoring schemes, which help the new PhD student integrate into the research environment more quickly.
  • Use the project description as a project management tool, and use the supervision to adjust the plan.
  • Know the rules so that both parties’ formal obligations are fulfilled on time.

The recommendations is taken from the University’s “To Lead the Way” booklet, which concerns the relationship between supervisors and PhD students. The booklet is based on interviews with PhD students, supervisors, and heads of graduate schools.