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How to do your research project

Get the most out of your supervisor

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Your supervisor is there to help you, so use them, but don't abuse them!

There are two of you in this project: you and your supervisor. This can either be a very good thing - you have expert help and guidance, and maybe even a friend. Or, it can be a very bad thing - it's difficult to carry out a good research project without good supervision, and it's hard working with someone you don't like.

It's worth putting some effort into your relationship with your supervisor for compelling reasons:

The good news is that there are ways you can improve your chances of having a great working relationship with your supervisor. So, how do you ensure you stay in your supervisor's good books? Follow the tops tips below, and you can't go wrong!

Top tips for getting the most out of your supervisor...
  • Keep in regular contact, but don't be too demanding - you're not the only thing in their world.
  • Take the initiative: make suggestions, come up with ideas or find interesting references.
  • Be enthusiastic - this is their life's work and if they think you love it, they'll love you!
  • Always keep appointments, and don't be late.
  • Try to tackle problems before you ask for help, and demonstrate you've made the effort to find out the answers.
  • Cultivate a friendly, yet professional manner; this is good practice for developing good working relationships in the 'real world'.
Activity: get the most out of meetings with your supervisor: the initial meeting - 10 minutes

If you're an undergraduate, you may not be allocated a great deal of supervision time, so it's vital to get the most out of every meeting. The following activities will help you to plan how to get the most out of your supervisor.

1. Before your first meeting with your supervisor, make a list of questions that you need answers to; for example, you may want to do the following:

  • discuss your research topic
  • discuss your research methodology
  • make a plan of work
  • find out how often you'll be expected to meet
  • find out how you should make contact - phone, email...?
  • ask if him/her to give you some references to get you started

2. Write your questions in a notepad so you don't forget to ask something important, and make a note of the answers you're given.

Activity: get the most out of meetings with your supervisor: subsequent meetings - 10 minutes

If you come to meetings prepared, you'll get answers to all your questions, save time - and impress your supervisor with your professionalism.

1. Before every meeting with your supervisor, prepare a list of the outcomes you want from the meeting, for example, you may want to...

  • get his/her opinion on an idea you've had
  • get an answer to a query
  • get help with a problem
  • agree a plan of work for the next week
  • get feedback on work you've done

2. You may be asked to keep a log of your meetings with your supervisor, but if a meeting log is not a requirement, it can be helpful to keep one anyway as a record of your discussions.

Recommended Further Reading

You should now be on your way to cultivating a rewarding working relationship with your supervisor. On the next page, we look at generating research ideas.

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