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Research and project supervision (all levels): an introduction  

Supervising projects, dissertations and research at UCL from undergraduate to PhD.

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1 August 2019

Many academics say supervision is one of their favourite, most challenging and most fulfilling parts of their job.

Supervision can play a vital role in enabling students to fulfil their potential. Helping a student to become an independent researcher is a significant achievement – and can enhance your own teaching and research.

Supervision is also a critical element in achieving UCL’s strategic aim of integrating research and education. As a research-intensive university, we want all students, not just those working towards a PhD, to engage in research.

Successful research needs good supervision.

This guide provides guidance and recommendations on supervising students in their research. It offers general principles and tips for those new to supervision, at PhD, Master’s or undergraduate level and directs you to further support available at UCL.

What supervision means

Typically, a supervisor acts as a guide, mentor, source of information and facilitator to the student as they progress through a research project.

Every supervision will be unique. It will vary depending on the circumstances of the student, the research they plan to do, and the relationship between you and the student. You will have to deal with a range of situations using a sensitive and informed approach.

As a supervisor at UCL, you’ll help create an intellectually challenging and fulfilling learning experience for your students.

This could include helping students to:

  • formulate their research project and question
  • decide what methods of research to use
  • become familiar with the wider research community in their chosen field
  • evaluate the results of their research
  • ensure their work meets the necessary standards expected by UCL
  • keep to deadlines
  • use feedback to enhance their work
  • overcome any problems they might have
  • present their work to other students, academics or interested parties
  • prepare for the next steps in their career or further study.

At UCL, doctoral students always have at least two supervisors. Some faculties and departments operate a model of thesis committees, which can include people from industry, as well as UCL staff.

Rules and regulations

Phd supervision.

The supervision of doctoral students’ research is governed by regulation. This means that there are some things you must – and must not – do when supervising a PhD.  

  • All the essential information is found in the UCL Code of Practice for Research Degrees .
  • Full regulations in the UCL Academic Manual .  

All staff must complete the online course Introduction to Research Supervision at UCL  before beginning doctoral supervision.

Undergraduate and Masters supervision

There are also regulations around Master’s and undergraduate dissertations and projects. Check with the Programme Lead, your Department Graduate Tutor or Departmental Administrator for the latest regulations related to student supervision.

You should attend other training around research supervision. 

  • Supervision training available through UCL Arena .

Doctoral (PhD) supervision: introducing your student to the university

For most doctoral students, you will often be their main point of contact at UCL and as such you are responsible for inducting them into the department and wider community.

Check that your student:

  • knows their way around the department and about the facilities available to them locally (desk space, common room, support staff)
  • has attended the Doctoral School induction and has received all relevant documents (including the Handbook and code of practice for graduate research degrees )
  • has attended any departmental or faculty inductions and has a copy of the departmental handbook.

Make sure your student is aware of:

  • key central services such as: Student Support and Wellbeing , UCL Students' Union (UCLU) and Careers
  • opportunities to broaden their skills through UCL’s Doctoral Skills Development Programme
  • the wider disciplinary culture, including relevant networks, websites and mailing lists.

The UCL Good Supervision Guide  (for PhD supervisors)

Establishing an effective relationship

The first few meetings you have with your student are critical and can help to set the tone for the whole supervisory experience for you and your student.

An early discussion about both of your expectations is essential:

  • Find out your student’s motivations for undertaking the project, their aspirations, academic background and any personal matters they feel might be relevant.
  • Discuss any gaps in their preparation and consider their individual training needs.
  • Be clear about who will arrange meetings, how often you’ll meet, how quickly you’ll respond when the student contacts you, what kind of feedback they’ll get, and the norms and standards expected for academic writing.
  • Set agendas and coordinate any follow-up actions. Minute meetings, perhaps taking it in turns with your student.
  • For PhD students, hold a meeting with your student’s other supervisor(s) to clarify your expectations, roles, frequency of meetings and approaches.

Styles of supervision

Supervisory styles are often conceptualized on a spectrum from laissez-faire to more contractual or from managerial to supportive. Every supervisor will adopt different approaches to supervision depending on their own preferences, the individual relationship and the stage the student is at in the project.

Be aware of the positive and negative aspects of different approaches and styles.

Reflect on your personal style and what has prompted this – it may be that you are adopting the style of your own supervisor, or wanting to take a certain approach because it is the way that it would work for you.

No one style fits every situation: approaches change and adapt to accommodate the student and the stage of the project.

However, to ensure a smooth and effective supervision process, it is important to align your expectations from the very beginning. Discuss expectations in an early meeting and re-visit them periodically.

Checking the student’s progress

Make sure you help your student break down the work into manageable chunks, agreeing deadlines and asking them to show you work regularly.

Give your student helpful and constructive feedback on the work they submit (see the various assessment and feedback toolkits on the Teaching & Learning Portal ).

Check they are getting the relevant ethical clearance for research and/or risk assessments.

Ask your student for evidence that they are building a wider awareness of the research field.

Encourage your student to meet other research students and read each other’s work or present to each other.

Encourage your student to write early and often.

Checking your own performance

Regularly review progress with your student and any co-supervisors. Discuss any problems you might be having, and whether you need to revise the roles and expectations you agreed at the start.  

Make sure you know what students in your department are feeding back to the Student Consultative Committee or in surveys, such as the Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES) . 

Responsibility for the student’s research project does not rest solely on you. If you need help, talk to someone more experienced in your department. Whatever the problem is you’re having, the chances are that someone will have experienced it before and will be able to advise you.

Continuing students can often provide the most effective form of support to new students. Supervisors and departments can foster this, for example through organising mentoring, coffee mornings or writing groups.

Be aware that supervision is about helping students carry out independent research – not necessarily about preparing them for a career in academia. In fact, very few PhD students go on to be academics.

Make sure you support your student’s personal and professional development, whatever direction this might take.

Every research supervision can be different – and equally rewarding.

Where to find help and support

Research supervision web pages from the UCL Arena Centre, including details of the compulsory Research Supervision online course. 

Appropriate Forms of Supervision Guide from the UCL Academic Manual

the PhD diaries

Good Supervision videos  (Requires UCL login)

The UCL Doctoral School

Handbook and code of practice for graduate research degrees

Doctoral Skills Development programme

Student skills support (including academic writing)

Student Support and Wellbeing

UCL Students' Union (UCLU)  

UCL Careers

External resources

Vitae: supervising a docorate

UK Council for Graduate Education

Higher Education Academy – supervising international students (pdf)

Becoming a Successful Early Career Researcher , Adrian Eley, Jerry Wellington, Stephanie Pitts and Catherine Biggs (Routledge, 2012) - book available on Amazon

This guide has been produced by the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education . You are welcome to use this guide if you are from another educational facility, but you must credit the UCL Arena Centre. 

Further information

More teaching toolkits  - back to the toolkits menu

Research supervision at UCL

UCL Education Strategy 2016–21  

Connected Curriculum: a framework for research-based education

The Laidlaw research and leadership programme (for undergraduates)

[email protected] : contact the UCL Arena Centre 

Download a printable copy of this guide  

Case studies : browse related stories from UCL staff and students.

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Eight tips to effectively supervise students during their Master's thesis

Jul 30, 2021 PhD

I am a fan of knowledge transfer between peers, teaching what I know to others and learning back from them. At University I frequently helped my fellow course mates with the material, so I was very interested in formally mentoring students when I started my PhD. Luckily my supervisor, who is really talented at this, agreed to let me help him with supervising some Master’s theses. In this article, also published as a Nature Career Column , I present eight lessons that I learned by watching him at work and trying on my own.

I supervised three Master’s students in the past year. One of them was quite good and independent, did not need a lot of guidance and could take care of most things on his own, while the other two required a fair amount of help from us, one of them even coming close to not graduating successfully. Dealing with the difficult situations is when I learned the most important lessons, but regardless of the ability of the students a common thread soon appeared.

But first, here’s a brief digression on how that happened. While I was writing a draft for this blog, I noticed an interesting article on Nature’s newsletter. While I was reading it, I felt its style was quite similar to what I usually aim for in this blog: use headlines to highlight the important points, and elaborate on those with a few paragraphs. I then noticed the author of that column was a PhD student, and I thought: “how comes she has an article there? Why can she do that? Can I do that?”. I quickly found how to do it , finished the draft and sent it to them, and, after eight rounds of review in the course of two months, the article was finally up! The editor was very responsive and we could iterate quickly on the manuscript, and the quality of the writing is so much better than what I had originally sent in. On the other hand, I sometimes felt the message was being warped a bit too much. After the editing process was finished I had to agree to an Embargo Period of six months during which Nature had the exclusive right of publishing the final version on their website. As those six months are now over, I am finally allowed to publish the final version here, too. Enjoy!

This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Nature Career Column . The final authenticated version is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-02028-1 .

The lessons I learnt supervising master’s students for the first time

PhD student Emilio Dorigatti supported three junior colleagues during their degrees.

I started my PhD wanting to improve not only my scientific abilities, but also ‘soft skills’ such as communication, mentoring and project management. To this end, I joined as many social academic activities as I could find, including journal clubs, seminars, teaching assistance, hackathons, presentations and collaborations.

I am a bioinformatics PhD student at the Munich School for Data Science in Germany, jointly supervised by Bernd Bischl at the Ludwig Maximilian University Munich and Benjamin Schubert at the Helmholtz Centre Munich, the German Research Center for Environmental Health. When I went to them asking to gain some experience in communication and mentoring soft skills, they suggested that I co-supervise three of Benjamin’s master’s students.

At first, I felt out of my depth, so I simply sat in on their meetings and listened. After a few months, I began offering technical advice on programming. I then started proposing new analyses and contributions. Eventually I became comfortable enough to propose a new master’s project based on part of my PhD research; Benjamin and I are now interviewing candidates.

I gained a great deal from this experience and I am grateful to both of my supervisors for supporting me, as well as to the students for staying motivated, determined and friendly throughout. Here are some of the things I learnt about how to ensure smooth collaboration and a happy outcome for all of us.

Draft a project plan

With Benjamin and Bernd, I put together a project plan for each of the master’s students. Drafting a two-page plan that ended up resembling an extended abstract for a conference forced us to consider each project in detail and helped to ensure that it was feasible for a student to carry out in their last semester of study.

If you’re a PhD student supervising others, sit down with your own supervisor and agree on your respective responsibilities as part of the project plan. At first, you might want your supervisor to follow you closely to help keep the project on the right path, but as you gain more experience and trust, you might request more autonomy and independence.

Use the project plan to advertise the position and find a suitable student: share it online on the group’s website or on Twitter, as well as on the job board at your department. Advertise it to your students if you are teaching a related topic, and sit back and wait for applicants.

We structured the plans to include a general introduction to the research subject as well as a few key publications. We described the gap in the literature that the project aimed to close, with the proposed methodology and a breakdown of four or five tasks to be achieved during the project. My supervisors and I also agreed on and included specific qualifications that candidates should have, and formalities such as contact information, starting dates and whether a publication was expected at the end.

Benjamin and I decided to propose publishable projects, sometimes as part of a larger paper. We always list the student as one of the authors.

Meet your student regularly

I found that I met with most students for less than an hour per week, but some might require more attention. Most of the time, Benjamin joined the meeting, too. We started with the students summarizing what they had done the previous week and any issues they had encountered. We then had a discussion and brainstorming session, and agreed on possible next steps. I learnt that I do not need to solve all the student’s problems (it is their thesis, after all). Instead, Benjamin and I tried to focus on suggesting a couple of things they could try out. At the end of the meeting, we made sure it was clear what was expected for the next week.

We used the first few weeks to get the students up to speed with the topic, encouraging them to read publications listed in the plan, and a few others, to familiarize themselves with the specific methods that they would be working with. We also addressed administrative matters such as making sure that the students had accounts to access computational resources: networks, e-mail, Wi-Fi, private GitHub repositories and so on.

Encourage regular writing

Good writing takes time, especially for students who are not used to it, or who are writing in a foreign language. It is important to encourage them to write regularly, and to keep detailed notes of what should be included in the manuscript, to avoid missing key details later on. We tried to remind our students frequently how the manuscript should be structured, what chapters should be included, how long each should be, what writing style was expected, what template to use, and other specifics. We used our meetings to provide continuous feedback on the manuscript.

The first two to four weeks of the project are a good time to start writing the first chapters, including an introduction to the topic and the background knowledge. We suggested allocating the last three or four weeks to writing the remaining chapters — results and conclusions — ensuring that the manuscript forms a coherent whole, and preparing and rehearsing the presentation for the oral examination.

Probe for correct understanding

In our weekly meetings, or at other times when I was teaching, I quickly realized that asking ‘did you understand?’ or ‘is that OK?’ every five minutes is not enough. It can even be counterproductive, scaring away less-assertive students.

I learnt to relax a little and take a different approach: when I explained something, I encouraged the students to explain it back in their own words, providing detailed breakdowns of a certain task, anticipating possible problems, and so on.

Ultimately, this came down to probing for understanding of the science, rather than delivering a lecture or grilling an interviewee. Sometimes this approach helps when a student thinks they fully understand something but actually don’t. For example, one of our students was less experienced in programming than others, so for more difficult tasks, we broke the problem down and wrote a sketch of the computer code that they would fill in on their own during the week.

Adapt supervision to the student

Each student requires a different type of supervision, and we tried to adapt our styles to accommodate that. That could mean using Trello project-management boards or a shared Google Doc to record tasks; defining tasks in detail and walking through them carefully; or taking extra time to explain and to fill knowledge gaps. I tried to be supportive by reminding students that they could always send an e-mail if they were stuck on a problem for too long. One of the students found it very helpful to text brief updates outside of scheduled meetings, as a way to hold themselves accountable.

Sometimes, if we felt a student needed to be challenged, we proposed new tasks that were not in the original plan or encouraged them to follow their interest, be it diving into the literature or coming up with further experiments and research questions.

One student conducted a literature review and summarized the pros and cons of the state-of-the-art technology for a follow-up idea we had. That saved some time when we picked up the project after the student left; they learnt lots of interesting things; and the discussion section of the manuscript was much more interesting as a result.

When things go badly, make another plan

Not all projects can be successful, despite your (and your student’s) best efforts. So, as part of each project, my supervisors and I prepared a plan B (and C), working out which tasks were essential and which were just a nice addition. This included a simpler research question that required less work than the original. The initial plan for one of our projects was to compare a newly proposed method with the usual way of doing things, but the new method turned out to be much more difficult than anticipated, so we decided not to do the comparison, and just showed how the new method performed.

Halfway through the project is a good time to evaluate how likely it is that the thesis will be handed in on time and as originally planned. The top priority is to help the student graduate. That might entail either forgoing some of the tasks planned at the beginning, or obtaining an extension of a few months if possible.

Have a final feedback round

After the oral examinations, Benjamin and I met to decide the students’ final grades on the basis of the university’s rubric. We then met the students one last time to tell them our decision, going through each item in the rubric and explaining the motivation for the score we had given. We tried to recall relevant events from the past months to make each student feel the grading was fair.

We also remembered to ask the student for feedback on our supervision and to suggest things they thought we could do better.

Lastly, I encouraged those students to apply for open positions in our lab, and offered to write recommendation letters for them.

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Enrichment Programs

Individualized & Interdisciplinary Studies Program

Guide for thesis supervisors.

Thank you for supervising an individualized major senior thesis project. Your expertise is critical in guiding the student’s project and setting the criteria for its evaluation. The guidelines below outline some considerations particular to individualized major students. They are most appropriate for traditional research projects but may also be relevant to less traditional final projects.

All individualized majors complete a capstone, which provides them an opportunity to integrate knowledge they have acquired during the course of their majors. About 40-45 percent of individualized majors do so by completing a thesis. (The rest complete our capstone course or an approved alternative.)

Thesis projects usually take the form of a traditional research study, but other formats, such as a photo essay, film, website, or piece of creative writing are also possible. Thesis projects, whatever their form, should contribute to the development of knowledge or practice in new ways, involve significant background research, and require sustained attention in the implementation of the project. If the final product takes a less traditional form, it should include a piece of writing that describes the student’s learning process.

Thesis Courses

Some thesis projects will comprise six credits completed over the course of two semesters. This is mandatory for students completing Honors Scholar requirements in their individualized major. Non-honors students may complete a one-semester, three-credit thesis project. Students intending to complete a thesis project must submit a thesis proposal  which they have discussed with their thesis supervisor no later than the last day of classes of the semester before they begin their thesis.

In the social sciences and humanities : In the Fall semester of the senior year, students will typically begin their research by enrolling in a thesis-related research seminar, graduate course, or independent study in their thesis supervisor’s department. During the Spring semester, students will enroll in UNIV 4697W Senior Thesis (for which the thesis supervisor serves as instructor) in which they will complete the research and write the thesis. During this process, the student meets regularly with the thesis supervisor for feedback on data collection, evidence gathering, analysis, and writing.

In the sciences , students may follow a more extended sequence, perhaps two to three semesters of data collection and laboratory work (independent studies or research courses) followed by thesis writing (UNIV 4697W) in the final semester.

Learning Outcomes

Individual faculty will differ in expectations regarding research methodology, theoretical approaches, and presentation of findings. Nonetheless, there are some general criteria and intended learning outcomes for all individualized major thesis projects.

  • The student’s research, analysis, and writing on the thesis project should be relevant to their individualized major and represent an opportunity for them to integrate and deepen at least several aspects of study in the major.
  • A thesis should do more than summarize the existing literature on a particular topic. It should make an original contribution to the field of study, present new findings in the form of new data, or new, critical interpretations of existing material. It should reflect a good command of the research methodologies in the relevant discipline(s).

Upon completion of the thesis project the student should be able to:

  • Define a research question and design a substantial research project.
  • Select a methodological approach to address the research question.
  • Identify appropriate sources and collect relevant and reliable data that addresses the research question.
  • Analyze the strengths and limitations of different scholarly approaches to the question, and recognize the resulting interpretative conflicts.
  • Develop an argument that is sustained by the available evidence
  • Present that argument in a clear, well-organized manner.

Requirements for Honors Students

As noted above, all Honors students are expected to complete at least six credits of thesis-relevant coursework. In addition, all Honors students are expected to have a second reader and make a public presentation of their thesis project.

Second Reader

We ask Honors students to identify a second reader for their thesis from a relevant discipline, which may be the same as, or different from, the supervisor’s discipline. The second reader will provide the student with a different perspective and may provide additional insights on how to achieve the intended learning outcomes of the thesis. The thesis supervisor, in consultation with the student, determines when to bring the second reader on board. It is the supervisor’s prerogative to define how the grade for the thesis will be determined.

Public Presentation

Honors students are required to make a public presentation of their thesis research in a format negotiated with the thesis supervisor. Where possible, the audience should include the thesis supervisor, the second reader, and an IISP staff member. Other faculty members and the student’s peers may be invited to join the audience, as well.

Existing departmental exhibitions or “Frontiers in Undergraduate Research” make excellent venues for student presentations. If a student cannot find a venue for his or her presentation, please consult with IISP and we will coordinate one.

Note: Although non-Honors students who are completing a thesis are not required to have a second reader or make a public presentation, we would certainly welcome them to do so.

Honors Advising

An IISP staff member serves as Honors Advisor to each individualized major following an Honors Scholar plan of study. The staff member’s role as an Honors advisor is to coordinate and facilitate students’ plans for completing Honors Scholar requirements, including the thesis, and to monitor progress toward completion.

Thesis Course Registration

Specific instructions for registering for UNIV 4697W are available on the Capstone page .

We very much appreciate your willingness to supervise an individualized major’s senior thesis. If you have any questions about the Individualized Major Program or about supervising an individualized major thesis, please contact IISP staff .

  • Research article
  • Open access
  • Published: 22 August 2019

The journey of thesis supervisors from novice to expert: a grounded theory study

  • Leila Bazrafkan 1 ,
  • Alireza Yousefy 2 ,
  • Mitra Amini 1 &
  • Nikoo Yamani 2  

BMC Medical Education volume  19 , Article number:  320 ( 2019 ) Cite this article

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Supervision is a well-defined interpersonal relationship between the thesis supervisors and their students. The purpose of this study was to identify the patterns which can explain the process of expertise attainment by thesis supervisors. We aimed at developing a conceptual framework/model to explain this development based on the experience of both students and supervisors.

We have conducted a qualitative grounded theory study in 20 universities of medical sciences in Iran since 2017 by using purposive, snowball sampling, and theoretical sampling and enrolled 84 participants. The data were gathered through semi-structured interviews. Based on the encoding approach of Strauss and Corbin (1998), the data underwent open, axial, and selective coding by constant comparative analysis. Then, the core variables were selected, and a model was developed.

We could obtain three themes and seven related subthemes, the central variable, which explains the process of expertise as the phenomenon of concentration and makes an association among the subthemes, was interactive accountability. The key dimensions during expertise process which generated the supervisors’ competence development in research supervision consisted maturation; also, seven subthemes as curious observation, evaluation of the reality, poorly structured rules, lack of time, reflection in action, reflection on action, and interactive accountability emerged which explain the process of expertise attainment by thesis supervisors.

Conclusions

As the core variable in the expertise process, accountability must be considered in expertise development program planning and decision- making. In other words, efforts must be made to improve responsibility and responsiveness.

Peer Review reports

Supervision is a well-defined term in the interpersonal relationship between thesis supervisors and students. A supervisor is designated to assist the student’s development in terms of their research project [ 1 , 2 , 3 ]. Faculty members supervise the students because qualified supervision leads to success on the part of the student, and it has moral, reputational, and financial outcomes for the institution. Supervisors are expected to train students to gain competence in areas such as specialist skills, generalist skills, self-reliance skills, and group/team skills [ 4 ]. Expertise is derived from the three essential elements of knowledge, experience, and the ability to solve problems in society [ 5 , 6 , 7 ]. .According to Dreyfus, acquisition of expertise or practical wisdom represents a higher level of “self-actualization.” At this point, one reaches a level in which they can flourish in their talents and abilities. This enables the teachers to function in scientific communities and multicultural environments [ 7 ].

Wiscer has identified three stages in the thesis supervision process and describes the duties of the supervisors in each of them [ 8 ]. Pearson and Brew state that maturation in specialist skills, generalist skills, self-reliance skills, and group/team skills are the major areas that need to be promoted in the student. Moreover, these are the generic processes in which the supervisors should be involved for efficacious supervision if they aim to help the students develop in various institutional, disciplinary and professional settings; acquire appropriate expertise and features needed for employment; and make an outline of what might form a flexible professional development program for supervisors in this setting [ 3 ]. Vereijken et al. emphasized novice supervisors’ approaches to reach expertise in supervision and explained the relationship between practice and dilemmas among novice supervisors [ 9 ].

.Despite the importance of expertise in higher education and particularly research supervision, research abilities are not considered as one of the priorities in the employment of the academic staff. Furthermore, the newly employed faculty members are often involved in teaching, administrative tasks, and services in health care; this inhibits them from expertise attainment in other aspects such as research supervision [ 10 , 11 , 12 ]. In this regard, Malekafzali believes that in the area of research activities, the faculty members have serious weaknesses in defining the problem, choosing the appropriate method for research, analyzing the data, interpreting the results, and publishing scientific articles. Besides, there is a lack of coherent and compiled training programs which can enhance their research capabilities [ 13 ].

One of the most important factors contributing to the thesis and research quality is the process of developing expertise in supervisors’ research supervision. Most studies in our country have focused on research abilities during the research, and fewer studies have focused on the process of expertise acquisition in thesis supervision, and no actual model has been proposed for this [ 11 , 12 , 13 ]. The quantitative researches could not explain exactly how and through which process the faculty members, as thesis supervisors, become experts in thesis supervision since the expertise process is multi-factorial and has many unknown aspects. Considering the effective role of qualitative research in clarifying ambiguous and unknown aspects, we chose the grounded theory approach for this study [ 14 , 15 , 16 , 17 ]. This theory will be used when the investigator intends to determine the patterns of actions and social interactions needed for the development of expertise by specific groups of people in a specific setting [ 17 , 18 ].

In this study, we aimed to identify the themes that explain the expertise development process among thesis supervisors in Iran, and also to develop a conceptual framework/model to explain this development based on the experience of both students and supervisors.

This study was carried out in 20 universities of medical sciences with different ranks in Iran because universities are the places where supervisors and students interact purposefully to discourse the needs of experts on specific occasions and in specific conditions. In these universities, different students study with various disciplines. There are three types of universities in Iran. Type 1 universities are the ones with the most facilities, faculties, research presentations, international collaborations, and scientific outcomes. The second rank belongs to type 2, and the one with the least mentioned qualities is type 3 universities. All three types of universities were included in this study. In all these courses, writing a thesis is one of the requirements with the same role and regulation. The majority of the students in this research project were in the late stages of both undergraduate and postgraduate educational programs within the same function and regulation.

Study design

We conducted this qualitative study based on a grounded theory approach in a systematic form [ 17 , 18 ]. Grounded theory is a symbolic interaction which is derived from systematic data collection during the research process. In this strategy, collecting and analyzing data and the theory derived from the data have a close association [ 17 , 19 ]. The investigator’s purpose in using grounded theory is to describe and clarify a phenomenon in the social condition and to identify the essential processes working within [ 17 ].

Participants

In this study, 84 subjects including 56 faculty members of medical sciences, 20 undergraduate and postgraduate students (medical students, MS of Science, Ph.D. and residents), and eight managers in the field of research supervision participated. Using purposive sampling, snowball sampling with maximum variation, we selected the participants from a variety of academic ranks with different work experiences, as the key informants in thesis supervisors. Then, to continue the sampling, we used theoretical sampling and data saturation. The inclusion criterion was 5 years of work experience in thesis supervision, and the exclusion criterion was the unwillingness to participate in the study. Firstly, we collected data in Shiraz University with the help of a research supervisor who is known for his high quality of supervision and then data gathering was initiated in the university of Isfahan. There were 34 key informants from the two universities and 22 individuals from other universities. Students were selected based on their willingness to participate.

Theoretical sampling was used next to develop the tentative theory. The basis for theoretical sampling was the queries that emerged during data analysis. At this stage, the researcher interviewed the supervisor, administrators, and students. Theoretical sampling facilitated in verifying the supervisors’ responses and credibility of categories and resulted in more conceptual density. Data saturation was obtained when no new data emerged in the last five interviews. Therefore, data gathering by interviews was terminated.

Data collection

We collected the data primarily by semi-structured interviews from September 2017 to September 2018. The participants were recognized with unknown codes based on their field of work and setting, and each participant was interviewed in one or two sessions. Having obtained the participants’ informed consent, we recorded the interviews and they were transcribed verbatim immediately. The interviews began with open-ended general questions such as, “What did you experience during research supervision?” and then the participants were asked to describe their perceptions regarding their expertise process. Leading questions were also used to deeply explore the conditions, processes, and other factors that participants recognized as significant issues. The interview was based mostly on the questions which came up during the interview. On average, each interview lasted for an hour, during which field notes and memos were taken. At the end of each session, the participants were asked to give an opinion on other important topics which did not come up during the interview, followed by data collection and analysis which are simultaneously done in grounded theory; analytic thought and queries that arose from one interview were carried to the next one [ 20 ].

The data were also collected by unstructured observations of the educational atmosphere in the laboratory, and the faculty member and students’ counseling offices. These observations lasted 5 weeks, during which the faculties and students’ interactions and the manner of supervision were closely monitored. The observation was arranged to sample the maximum variety of research supervisor activity for some faculty member who is known to be a good or poor supervisor and detailed organized field notes were kept.

Also, we used the field notes to reflect emergent analytic concepts as a source of three angulations of data, frequently reconsidering the data, and referring to field notes in the context of each participant’s explanation. Analysis of the field notes facilitated in shaping contextual conditions and clarifying variations in the supervisors’ responses in each context. This led to the arrangement of several assumptions in the effect of contexts.

Data analysis

We simultaneously performed data collection and analysis. We read the scripts carefully several times and then entered them into MAXQDA (version10). We collected and analyzed the data practically and simultaneously by using a constant comparative method. Data were analyzed based on the 3-stage coding approach, including open, axial, and selective coding by Strauss and Corbin In the open coding stage, we extracted the basic concepts or meaning units from the gathered information. Then, more general concepts were formed by grouping similar concepts into one theme. The themes became clearer throughout the interviews. Then, the constructs of them were compared with each other to form tentative categories. After that, we conducted axial coding by using the guidelines given in Corbin and Strauss’s (2008) Paradigm Model [ 21 ]. The extracted themes (codes) in the previous (open coding) stage were summarized in 3 main themes during the axial coding stage, and then the core variables were selected in the selective coding stage [ 20 ]. To generate a reasonable theory to the community, a grounded theorist needs to condense the studied happenings a the precise sequence. To check the data against categories, the researcher asks questions related to certain categories and returns to the data to seek evidence. After developing a theory, the researcher is required to confirm the theory by comparing it with existing theories found in the recently available research [ 21 ]. We finalized the model after 5 days; during this time, we explained the relations between subcategories and the core category for realizing theoretical saturation and clarifying the theoretical power of the analysis explained about work as narration.

In terms of accuracy improvement, we used the Lincoln and Guba’s criteria, including credibility, dependability, conformability, and transferability [ 22 , 23 ].

To increase credibility, we collected data from different universities in Iran, and their credibility was also confirmed by three reviewers and experts in qualitative research. Also, some of the participants rechecked the data and the investigators’ description and interpretation of their experiences carefully. Prolonged engagement and tenacious observation facilitated the data credibility. In this way, the process of data collection and analysis took 12 months. Data triangulation and method triangulation also confirmed credibility [ 20 ]. The use of the maximum variation sampling method contributed to the dependability and conformability of data. Furthermore, once the explanation of the phenomenon was full, it was returned for confirmation to 3 participants of each university, and they validated the descriptions. Finally, to attain transferability, we adequately described the data in this article, so that a judgment of transferability can be made by readers.

Ethical considerations

This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences (92–6746). The participants were informed about the research aim and interviews. Informed consent for conducting and recording the interview was obtained. The confidentiality of the participants’ information was maintained throughout the study.

In this study, the mean age of the faculty members and students was 44.34 ± 14.60 and 28.54 ± 2.38 years, respectively. All the faculty members and most of the students were married. Only three students were single. Three themes and seven interrelated sub-themes emerged from the data (Table  1 ). The main variable, which explains the process of expertise as the phenomenon of concentration and makes an association among the categories, was interactive accountability. The key dimensions of the expertise process are displayed in a model (Fig.  1 ).

figure 1

The process of expertise attainment in research supervisor model

Theme 1: engagement

In this theme, the initial phase of expertise, the supervisor starts to observe the others’ behavior in the students’ supervision and guidance based on the practical and cognitive skills previously acquired. They attempt to recognize the different needs based on the amount of their motivation and previous competence so that the models become important for them, and they recognize the scope of the needs based on their importance. Then, they try to understand the needs and values of real thesis supervision in this context. In this theme, two sub-themes, curious observation, and evaluation with reality emerged.

Curious observation

In this sub-theme, several concepts such as personal interest, self-awareness, ability to meet the students’ needs, ability to detect weaknesses in research skills, and observation of role models in this area act as the impellent factors in expertise attainment in research supervision.

Regarding personal interest, a successful faculty member in the area of research supervision said:

“…In my experience, faculties must be selected from those who have curious personalities as well as being good observers, first of all. In this way, they will have the appropriate intrinsic character to acquire knowledge in guidance and supervision)…” (Faculty member N0.3)

According to our participants, the most important intrinsic motivation is the desire to update the content knowledge and skills in research supervision. An experienced professor said:

“ … The knowledge gap between the new and old generations of faculty members is what forced me to update my knowledge...and it has been detected by myself…” (Faculty member N0.3).

Another important intrinsic motivation is the ability to meet the educational and research needs of students. However, usually these needs are combined; one of the faculty members put it:

“…I would like to be an expert in this process (thesis supervision) to meet my students’ needs. Because I have seen and felt this need many times before…” (Faculty member N0.12).

Since the publication of research directly affects the promotion of a faculty, some professors seek skills that are practical in article publication such as several statistical and basic skills for thesis writing. The participants considered the self-awareness and consciousness elements as very important. Through consciousness, one can better understand their needs.

Evaluation with reality

In this sub-theme, in the initial phase maintaining academic dignity and competition motivates the faculty members to obtain expertise in research supervision. At this point, the supervisor evaluates themself and their potentialities considering more precise features and acquired information (or data), so that they can find the distance between the optimal state and the existing conditions. They also evaluate the others’ potentialities in this field realistically and compete. Good supervision is then highlighted for them. Based on the supervisors’ experience, at this stage, they are seriously engaged in evaluation and competition.

Another motivation was obtaining academic and social promotion. Although the number of theses supervised by them can affect the academic promotion of supervisors, this effect is insignificant. The real motivation is maintaining academic dignity and competition amongst peers. A member of the clinical faculties stated:

“ … To enhance academic dignity, a faculty member should master various skills such as patient care, teaching, educational skills, and last but not least, research supervision. I got involved in research and thesis supervision because I felt I should not be left behind…” ( Faculty member N0.17).

At this stage, the junior supervisor tries to increase the cognitive knowledge in research supervision such as increasing specific knowledge of the discipline, planning, directing of a project effectively, and developing good interpersonal skills presented in research supervision.

Theme 2: supervision climate

In this theme, we describe the contextual factor which changes the process of expertise attainment in thesis supervisors. The result of the study reflects some concerns about the relationship between individuals in the context in that they interact purposefully but with barriers. The supervision climate in the thesis supervision process in this theme led to the emergence of two sub-themes, challenging shortcomings and role ambiguity. These challenges include poorly structured rules and regulations which, in turn, can cause confusion and role ambiguity.

Challenging shortcomings

This report shows that contextual factor plays a significant role in promoting the quality of a thesis in a university, but the process is faced with altered challenges such as inadequate resources, inadequate time, and ineffective evaluation and rule and regulation deficit. These challenges include the following. Most faculty members and students have experienced these shortcomings.

Various inadequate resources, such as access to new and online journals, laboratory equipment were one of the challenges for supervisors in certain aspects which required more competency, and the constraints on communication with the other academic centers worldwide undermine the sense of competition and hinder the effort put in to become an expert. One of the students said: “… I see how difficult it is to gain access to a good article or laboratory materials in this situation …we try, but it just isn’t possible...” (Faculty member N0.17).

Based on our results, the sudden changes in personal life, work position, and organizational change can affect the path to expertise. These changes such as marriage, work overload, admission of students over the capacity, new rules and regulation of scholar citizenship, promotion and so on can have both positive and negative impacts, depending on whether they facilitate or restrict the professional development of faculties as supervisors. For instance, an increase in student admission causes work overload, which results in neglecting self-improvement.

“…As you know, we are over- loaded with students (they have increased the number of admissions), which is beyond our capacity. This means that most of our time will be dedicated to teaching. Self-improvement is difficult due to lack of time…” (Faculty member N0.6).

Role ambiguity

Poorly structured supervision can occur where there is an ambiguous context of supervision structure, supervisors and students’ roles. Most participants, as faculty members, managers, and students have experienced some difficulties in this regard, due to poorly structured rules(EDITORS NOTE; do you mean ‘rules and regulations ‘here) and regulations and its impact on the thesis supervision. It is not only the rules themselves but also the way they are implemented. One of the faculty members expressed confusion over the rules related to the dissertation as follows:

“…It should be made clear what I must do exactly. It is obvious regarding supervision on the work of students; there are not the same expectations from an Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and a professor. Most problems occur as a result of the gap in legislation; For example, the rules imply a full Professor does not need a statistical consult, while many supervisors like me do not have enough knowledge and skills in statistical analysis...” (Faculty member N0.1).

Failure to implement the rules also increases the sense of this ambiguity, and there are no specific rules for verifying capability and audits to determine inadequate experts in thesis supervision. The role ambiguity or unclear roles and responsibilities of the supervisor and student in the thesis process were other limitations that were emphasized by the majority of participants. A faculty member stated:

“… Supervisors have different roles during the thesis process. To enhance this process, one must exactly know one’s responsibilities. For instance, in the beginning, the supervisor should guide the students through the process of finding a suitable research topic, but if the teacher's role is unclear, then instead of guiding they may actually choose the topic, and if so, the students will be prevented from exploring, using their creative thinking, and improving their problem-solving abilities…” (Faculty member N0.1).

Various performance

Based on the participants’ experiences, in this situation in which there are inadequate resources and organizational and social problems, some faculty members are well-trained in the field of supervision. One of the senior faculty members said: “It is my honor to mention that despite the existence of many obstacles, I have been able to train well-educated students, who have become researchers and contribute to the development of science in my country.”

One of the most important causes of poor performance is ineffective evaluation. Based on the participants experiences, two main problems can result in ineffective evaluation. First of all is the inadequate feedback from the supervisor which leads to unmotivated learners and the second one is lack of feedback from the stakeholders and educational institutes which in turn diminishes the supervisor’s efforts toward self-improvement. These can lead to poor performance both in students and supervisors.

In one of the Ph.D. student’s words:

“…In this system, there is no supervision on the supervisors; there is no control or evaluation of their work. Also, the supervisors don't get feedback from their students during the research process, and there is no third person who investigates whether the report is real or not…” (student N0. 7).

Evidence from data suggests that an unfair judgment and evaluation of academic theses are other problems in the process of acquiring the merit of teachers. If there isn’t proper evaluation, students and supervisors would not have the right standards to correct their performance.

The professors do not always consider the lack of expertise to be the only cause of poor performance. Many believe that inadequate monitoring can also reduce the motivation for quality performance. This means that supervisors may obtain the necessary expertise, but they are not motivated to enhance their performance since they are not expected to do this. One student had experienced:

“…I was so thrilled that my thesis supervisor was an experienced, older and well-known professor, but unfortunately, I soon found out that not only was his scientific knowledge outdated, but also he lacked the necessary supervision skills, so he let the students do all the work unsupervised. He did not take any responsibility during the process…” (Student N0.4).

Another point which leads to poor performance is the fact that some faculty members do not comprehend the main purpose of the thesis writing process; actually, they do not know the difference between teaching and guiding in the project or thesis supervision. One of the basic science supervisors said: “… Some faculties consider a thesis as research work and not a lesson in which research methodology should be taught...” (Faculty member N0.5).

Performing poorly along with ignoring professional ethics can also lead to increased tension and stress in student-teacher relationships. This can result in despondency and frustration in both students and teachers and create a vicious cycle of inefficient supervisors who will train inefficient students or future supervisors.

One of the students put it this way:

“...I feel the absence of a supervisor in my research; I would have been more successful, and my results would have been better if I had had more guidance.” (Student N0.6).

Theme 3: maturation

In this theme, the secondary phase of expertise, the individual is emotionally involved and feels that success or failure is important. This is a stage in which the learner needs an integrated schedule to be competent, and as a result, success or failure will follow. The supervisors frequently think about personal promotion and takes action in this way. They try out different approaches, and sometimes due to disappointment and embarrassment they fail. Some individuals quit at this stage and never reach competence, or they have what may be called an artificial competence. And this does not mean that they are not considered to be well-known supervisors; rather, they know, as do the students, that they are not competent. At this stage, the supervisor attempts to acquire the identity of a researcher and tries to enhance his availability, and be dutiful, knowledgeable, and enthusiastic in research supervision. Along the lines of this theme, three sub-themes of Reflection in action, Reflection on action, and Interactive accountability emerged.

Reflection in action

In this sub-theme, the patterns of expertise development begin, and self-directed learning, participatory teaching and learning strategies through a hidden curriculum are considered. At this stage, the supervisor tries to follow self-directed learning, and the amount of time allocated to expertise acquirement seems to be one of the most important factors. In this regard, one stated:

“…My success in this case (research supervision) is, first of all, due to self-evaluation and self-effort. For instance, to be in control and take full responsibility, I think about everything related to the guidance of the students, and I felt the need to master every aspect of research, even the statistical skills needed for analysis…” (Faculty member N0.8).

The supervisors’ activities were divided into two groups: self-directed –learning strategy and gaining experience through individual effort. Expertise requires continuous interaction and experience. They evaluate their learning, and by this, they experience the manner of managing and allocating time for effective supervision. According to participants, the amount of time allocation for expertise seems to be one of the most important factors for self-directed learning and expertise acquirement.

The formal training workshops provided an opportunity for supervisors with similar terms and the same problems in terms of learning experiences, environmental features, students, and educational problems to come together in one place. Participants also considered the formal participatory teaching necessary since it can provide an opportunity for the peers to get together and exchange their experiences. As a clinical faculty member put it:

“…Collaborative strategies can be beneficial in many ways. One of them is the facilitation of experience exchanges amongst teachers, peers, and colleagues and modeling the behavior of teachers and teaching workshops that emphasize the importance of their expertise in research supervision…” (Faculty member N0.1).

In our participants’ experience, this self-directed learning is effective if, and only if, it is done accompanied by proper training and participatory teaching. Otherwise, it is a waste of time. As an example, one of the students in this field said:

“…my supervisor was a great teacher and put in a lot of time and effort on my thesis supervision; however, due to his lack of research skills, I had to change my thesis proposal three times. However, after he participated in a training course at the University of Oxford, his progress was unbelievable and impressive…and I saw his expertise…” (Student N0.11).

One of the faculty members also quoted:

“…When the teachers feel a gap in their knowledge or skill, the university must provide a comfortable, appropriate, and easy way for learning them …” (Faculty member N0.10).

Regarding this subject, one of the Managers in this field stated:

“…Another improvement strategy is the use of interpersonal interactions among faculty members, these instructive interpersonal interactions among the faculty members in similar conditions make it possible to benefit from peers’ feedback …” (Manager N0.1).

A hidden curriculum strategy, like learning through trial and error can also affect the expertise process. One of the professors expressed:

“… Learning through trial and error is very effective; through the supervision of each thesis, we learn some of our mistakes and try not to remake them in the next one …” (Faculty member N0.3).

The professors do not always consider the lack of expertise to be the only cause of poor performance. Many believe that inadequate monitoring can also reduce the motivation for quality performance. This means that supervisors may obtain the necessary expertise, but they are not motivated to enhance their performance since they are not expected to do this. One student’s experience:

Reflection on action

The learner provides an integrated schedule for their competence and uses all the facilitators and facilities around them for further efficiency and promotion. This stage is named Conditional Self-efficacy by expertise experience. At this stage, the supervisor is considered a competent individual who can guide the students based on the experiences of specialized and non-specialized faculty members.

In this regard, one of the students said:

“…I can acknowledge that my supervisor functioned very impressively in this thesis, but guidance and supervision are not static; rather, it is an active process. To be a good supervisor, the faculty members should try to keep up to date and revise their attitudes, duties, and their specialty and knowledge. …” (Student N0.3).

According to the participants, at this stage the supervisors have achieved meta-competence and general characteristics or professional value; are able to guide the students and others; and develop characteristics such as acquiring specific knowledge of the discipline, especially well-organized knowledge, planning, directing of a project effectively, having good interpersonal skills, and being dutiful, knowledgeable and enthusiastic in research.

One of the PhD students states: “… My supervisor is typical of an expert. His ingenious inquiries, extraordinary attention to science and his personality have always been admired and he has been a role model for me…” (Student N0.6).

For example, the supervisors attend educational programs on scientific writing and thesis evaluation as well as ethics in research and apply them in team work. Gradually, their competency can enable them to function as a good supervisor for their students. At this stage, the supervisor develops so that they can respond due to discovery and intuition. These responses replace their dubious and unskilled reactions. The supervisor now reflects various stages of supervision and guidance. They take action, and in fact, a part of their reactions are achieved through observation and recognition. In this stage, they not only recognize what should be done but also distinguish how to achieve it with more precise discretion. A competent person does the appropriate task in the most appropriate time using the right platform.

The time period required for training or acquiring expertise varies from one person to another. Some individuals become experts very soon, whilst it takes others longer.. As one of the professors said:

“…In the beginning, I was too concerned with my responsibility as a thesis supervisor and was not sure what I should do. However, after ten years of experience, I have gained a sense of awareness which makes supervision easier for me. Of course, up to date knowledge and skill as to managing a thesis are always necessary. It took me about 12 years to reach where I am today. Furthermore, an individual who is expert at present, will not be so in two years, so I want to say that the expertise in thesis supervision in a continuum, which depends on the supervisor’s reflections on work and activity …” (Faculty member N0.15).

The continuous path of expertise in supervision can be affected by various factors. This has resulted in a range of expertise and performance in supervisors. This range and continuum is a theme that most of our participants agreed with. One of the managers revealed:

“…There is surely a continuum of expertise. We cannot deny the expert supervisors; however, the existence of those with poor supervising skills must also be acknowledged (in thesis supervision). There are those on whose ethics, honesty, and knowledge we can rely on. On the other hand, there are a few who are not as trustworthy as needed.” (Manager N0.1).

The core variable: interactive accountability

As shown in Fig. 1 , through this survey, we found that the core variable in thesis supervision process is the interactive accountability shaped by interactions of supervisors and students in an academic setting, so to enhance the accountability, each group must take responsibility and do his or her job. In this regard, one of the managers claimed:

“…When supervisors find themselves responsible, and the university officials recognize this responsibility, the supervisors are motivated to seek expertise and try to enhance their competencies and acquire learning strategies because of being accountable…” (Manager N0.2)

This means that teachers must be responsive to the needs of students, university and community. Accountability is a mutual interaction between the students and their supervisor, in other words, if the student is responsive to his duties, he creates motivation in his supervisor. One of the participants commented;

“…I've always tried to be a competent thesis supervisor, so that I have the ability to meet the needs of the community and university as well as students. I say to myself when I accept the supervision of a thesis, I should be well accountable for its results…” (Faculty member N0.32)

This study aimed at exploring the processes of expertise among thesis supervisors based on the experience of faculty members, students, and managers of Iranian universities of medical sciences. The section concludes with an explanation of how these themes are a cohesive relationship, which enables the expertise development of supervisors. It seems that the core variable in the expertise process is the concept of interactive accountability and efforts to acquire the capacity to respond to the students and academic needs. This will help them to promote their professional behavior in research supervision. The importance of accountability and various types of ability in thesis supervision has also been emphasized by other studies [ 24 , 25 , 26 ]. It was also mentioned as the major feature of the supervisor in other studies [ 26 , 27 ].

In this study, “accountability” emerged as the behavioral pattern through which the supervisors resolved their main concern of being an expert in being responsive to academic and students’ needs. Supervision training is complex since academic choices in the real world can depend on supervisor characteristics. The results of this study revealed that in the initial phase of supervision, observation, evaluation, and reflection in action and maturation stage in the secondary phase were the major themes that emerged. This result compared with Bandura’s social learning and self-efficacy theory was significant in similarity and difference. Bandura believes that achieving self-efficacy is one of the most important contributors to competence. In his model, he suggested four sources of self-efficacy, including previous accomplishments, vicarious experiences such as having a role model, verbal persuasion such as coaching and evaluative feedback, and emotional arousal [ 28 , 29 ]. Likewise, in this study, we found that the emotional arousals such as personal interest in cooperative learning, peer competition, meeting the needs of students, self-awareness and the need for upgrading are the significant factors for the faculties’ expertise. Also, our participants found that the utilization of previous experiences is the most effective method of achieving personal competence. However, this study indicates conditional expertise, which means if an expert’s information is not up to date and they do not make any effort in this regard, being an expert and having expertise is not a permanent condition.

This study also revealed that self-effort, workshops, and role models, as part of a hidden curriculum, are influential methods of teacher empowerment which agrees with the results of some studies such as those of Britzman et al. and Patel et al. Patel et al. have also suggested the importance of role modeling; they believe that modeling and observing other faculty members behavior is an effective tool for promoting and strengthening the sense of efficacy in learners [ 30 , 31 ].

Based on our study results, among the learning methods used in Iran, the collaborative education and problem-based learning is the widely accepted method which is preferred by most faculties. Therefore, cooperative and collaborative learning strategies can be used in educating the faculty members towards expertise in supervision, as revealed in other studies [ 32 , 33 ].

Lack of time is reported by supervisors to be one of the most common barriers in trying to become an expert and carry out respectable worthy supervision, and taking one’s time is acknowledged as a motivating factor for putting in more effort in thesis supervision [ 34 , 35 , 36 ].

The effect of contextual factors is studied in several surveys [ 36 , 37 , 38 ]. Gillet et al. state that contextual and organizational factors play a key role in the competence of teachers in research supervision [ 36 ]. This study also showed that faculty expertise in thesis supervision was significantly affected by the impact of contextual interventional factors such as sudden changes, structural shortcomings, and educational environment. Based on our and other studies’ results, among the sudden changes, increased workload due to the increase in the student population has greatly affected expertise. Moreover, while an increase in the workload can lead to more experienced faculty members, it is very time-consuming and, therefore, reduces the chance to obtain new information and skills in thesis supervision [ 33 , 37 ].

Similar to our study, other studies such as those of Al-Naggar et al. and Yousefi et al. have also found insufficient monitoring and lack of formative evaluations to be one of the main obstacles in the thesis supervision process. Studies have indicated that to improve the supervision process, careful planning and incentive rules must be applied [ 5 , 34 ]. Similarly, our participants mentioned that rules and regulations which have resulted in the positive effect of research on scholarship and promotion had truly motivated them. Like our study, other studies in Iran have also found that the amount of time allocated to learning is one of the influential factors affecting the faculty members’ expertise [ 13 , 38 ]. A malfunctioning relationship between the student and supervisors can affect both of them negatively; that is, it can compel the students to misbehave and also reduce the teachers’ motivation to develop better skills. This malfunction may be due to the lack of constructive interactions or paternalism leadership in research supervision [ 39 , 40 ]. As shown in Fig. 1 , this study provided a conceptual framework that can be used in policy making and studies of expertise development in research supervision. This framework is based on the perception and experience of the majority of those involved in the thesis process. It also provides teachers with an opportunity to compare and share their experiences.

This model has three fields of experience, which yields a comprehensive gradient of the factors used for the development and progress of thesis supervision quality. In other words, it is a rational structure that makes an effort to cover a comprehensible number of stages, of concept, achievement, and impact or consequence. In other words, this model is a combination of a great number of items that help to recognize the present and future processes of expertise in thesis supervision, and future challenges in this area which predict results and impacts of supervisor’s knowledge, attitude and research supervision. Table one offers the categories and clarifications [ 17 ].

This study is based on our overall model of expertise attainment. This model reveals that specific personal efforts such as observation of prior knowledge, evaluation or self-assessments alongside the university contextual dynamics help to figure out how supervisors select their approaches and engagements, and respond carefully to their task, which in turn impacts the supervisors’ level of expertise and, finally, outcomes such as work and perseverance, which then help them to become an expert. Similar to the social learning theory of Bandura, this model also states that there is a mutual relationship between different parts that can mutually affect one another. For instance, faculty members have shown in various studies how one’s previous academic success and failure can affect the future levels of involvement and motivation. Based on the study aims, we focused on only three of the components of the model: observation, evaluation, and self-efficacy; in terms of motivational processes, we focused on four motivational components. The first is self-efficacy, defined as students’ judgments of supervisor abilities to carry out a task, and their beliefs about their ability to do so show the highest levels of academic achievement and also engagement in academic behaviors promoting learning.

Through the use of this grounded theory, we can begin to understand the supervisors’ challenges and why it may be difficult to become an expert in research supervision in practice. The junior supervisors curiously observe and evaluate their environment by reflection and in action and do their best to attain knowledge and skills in the supervision of the theses, so that they can reach maturation. They are mainly supported by prior knowledge of the research supervision, which they had acquired when they were students. The concept of “interactive accountability” refers to the fact that if the supervisor is responsive to the students’ needs, they can be an expert in supervision. If they cannot overcome the barriers and shortcomings such as lack of time, they will not attain expertise in thesis supervision.

Strengths and limitations of the study

This grounded theory study describes the main dimensions of expertise in research supervision from straight reports of a large qualitative sample ( n  = 84) which consists of thesis supervisors, from all Iranian universities in three different data collection phases. Like other qualitative research, the results of this study cannot be generalized; therefore, it is recommended that the researchers conduct further qualitative research in other contexts to support these findings.

Despite the above limitations, we believe that this model can be useful for supervisors in the thesis supervision area, not only in analyzing the supervisors’ experience of supervision and being an expert but also in recognizing the areas of intervention or development of teacher training.

Implications of the study

The findings of the present study will help administrators to choose the supervisor with definite criteria in medical sciences institutes and facilitate the expertise in the supervision process through elimination of the shortcomings and improvement of the educational climate. The supervisor’s interest, talent, and capabilities should be assessed at the beginning of their employment as academic staff. Supervisors should attend educational workshops for updating their knowledge about supervision. It is recommended that collaborative strategies and methods should be used, so that we can contribute to the process of becoming an expert. The assessment of supervisors’ functioning in supervising and provision of feedback can contribute to the process of expertise. Feedback received from students about their supervisors will improve the supervisor’s further expertise and capabilities. For future studies survey on the impact of successful models in thesis supervision, disclosure analysis studies about student and supervisor are recommended.

In this study, we aimed to find out how thesis supervisors achieve expertise in supervision. The results of our study indicated that thesis supervisors achieve expertise in supervision in two stages of engagement and maturation. The emotional need to be responsive towards peers and students is the main motivation for the acquisition of competency at observation and evaluation phase of engagement. Through the evaluation and observation phase, the supervisors reach cognitive competence, such as research skills. Also, in the maturation phases, they reach meta-competence in research supervision such as problem-solving and resolving dilemmas by reflection in and when exposed to dilemmas. Meanwhile, the effects of supervision climate include shortcomings and role ambiguities which should be taken into account. According to this model, when supervisors are exposed to such problems, they apply multiple strategies, such as self-directed and collaborative learning; and learning by trial and error and from the role models. This will help them to promote their professional behavior in research supervision. This study indicated that interactive accountability, as the core variable, can be guaranteed in thesis supervisors by making the role clear, creating a supportive context, and improving the academic competencies of staff in an ongoing fashion. Therefore, this can promote constructive expertise in supervisors and foster a deeper understanding of the supervisor’s expertise in thesis supervision.

Availability of data and materials

The datasets produced and analyzed during the present study are not publicly accessible due to participant confidentiality, but are obtainable from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgments

The researchers would like to thank all research participants of Medical Sciences Universities (faculty, student, and managers) who contributed to the study. The authors would also like to thank the Education Development Center of Shiraz University of Medical Sciences for cooperation in this study and special thanks to Professor Shokrpoour for her editing.

The present article was extracted from the thesis written by Leila Bazrafkan. The design and implementation of the project was financially supported by Esfahan University of Medical Sciences (Grant No. 92–6746).

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Leila Bazrafkan & Mitra Amini

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LB developed the study design, conducted the interviews and analysis, ensured trustworthiness, and drafted the manuscript. AY, as the supervisor participated in the study design, supervised the codes and data analysis process, and revised the manuscripts. NY as research advisor participated in the study and provided guidance during the study and MA revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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LB is an assistant professor of medical education in Medical Education Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences,

AY is Professor of Medical Education Dept., Medical Education Research Center, University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan

MA is Professor of Medical Education in the Medical Education Research Center, Shiraz University of Medical Sciences,

NY Associate Professor of Medical Education Dept., Medical Education Research Center, University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

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Correspondence to Nikoo Yamani .

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This study was approved by the Ethics Committee of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences (92–6746). The participants were justified about the research aim and interviews. Informed consent for conducting and recording the interview was obtained. The confidentiality of the participants’ information was maintained throughout the study.

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Bazrafkan, L., Yousefy, A., Amini, M. et al. The journey of thesis supervisors from novice to expert: a grounded theory study. BMC Med Educ 19 , 320 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12909-019-1739-z

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The Auditorium: a research culture and researcher development blog

a research culture and researcher development blog

Getting started with supervising Masters projects

By Dr Stephanie Zihms, Lecturer in Researcher Development, University of the West of Scotland.

a cartoon representation of multiple researchers carrying jigsaw puzzle pieces labelled 'research project, 'phd project' and 'idea'. The researchers together slot the pieces into a bigger picture canvas.

I offer this post as an introduction to the process of supervising Masters Degree projects, and I will cover how to craft an appropriately sized project, build good working relationships, and ensure timely completion and reporting. It’s intended for all people new to supervising Masters projects.

We probably all recognise that the supervisor-supervisee relationship is one of the most important factors in doctoral degree experience and a growing body of literature shows its impact on degree satisfaction, progression and completion (e.g., Deuchar, 2008; Hemer, 2012 ; Jordan and Gray, 2012) . Masters’ supervision can sometimes be thought of as being slightly lower stakes due to the shorter time frame over which it takes place. Yet the impact of a thoughtless approach, a strained relationship, poor support or inappropriate behaviour will have lasting impact on the student and can affect their mental and physical health and career progression. These issues can be navigated, averted, or avoided if we manage expectations, agree our management and communication styles and work on building an effective relationship with our students ( Lee, 2008 ; Stracke, 2010 p12 ; McEvoy et al. , 2018 ). 

Getting started with research supervision

What is your context? Have you ever thought about how your prior experience and life, educational and workplace context influences your practice as a project supervisor? 

My context is that I’m a white cis gender, disabled, academic based in a professional services team in a Scottish University. I have experience of official and unofficial supervision both as a PGR and Post-doctoral Research Associate, and now as a Lecturer. I currently lead our Supervisor Development Module, as well as a wide range of other development activities and support for PGRs and Staff. This personal and professional experience as well as my discipline conventions, and my personal values, gives my approach a certain grounding or ‘lens’. 

Additionally, my experience of being supervised has informed my approach. We can often tend to copy good practice or behaviour we have experienced and try and avoid repeating ‘bad’ practice. On the Supervisor Module I lead; I often hear how people either want to copy their supervisor or never end up like them. These personal reflections, whilst important, are certainly not the whole story. A rounded and capable supervisor will seek to learn from a range of different sources, and will reflect on their approach, and its effectiveness. Let’s start with the fundamentals:

What’s your role as a supervisor?

The role of a supervisor can vary in terms of the written guidance you can access, and it will depend on how you interpret and perform the role as well, in line with the personal contextual influences I discussed above (e.g., Severinsson, 2015 ). The key responsibilities of supervisors from the institution’s perspective generally cluster around supporting the student to engage with, plan, manage and interpret their research project. And to offer this support in line with requirements, policies, and procedures relating to the academic, career, safeguarding, and wellbeing needs of students.

Make sure you are familiar with your institution’s specific expectations of Masters supervisors and also with the people and resources you have available to support you to supervise well. This can seem like quite a lot to consider, yet being prepared, and informed can help you avoid passing on misinformation, crossing boundaries, or getting into problems down the line.

Your work before the project starts

Obviously, a lot of work needs to happen on your part before the research starts to scope out feasible projects you can support and resource. Do you keep a bank of ideas or even draft proposals for Masters projects? 

If you are looking for ideas your ‘future work’ sections from your doctoral thesis, previous Masters dissertations, or recent publications would make a great start. Keep in mind the limited timescale for a Masters project, and break down the work into multiple small manageable research questions, and ask students to choose (or adapt) just one. Keeping it small, and boundaries is key for completion on time. You can add later if needed, but scaling back a project half way through can feel demoralising to the student. You can always cross-link between related projects, to keep your eye on the bigger picture, and make sure different students are communicating about their findings in related areas.

Expectation management and relationship building

Let’s go back again to the ideas of context and our lived experiences and how these might influence not only our approach but also our expectations for supervision, and for our students. 

It is normal to be influenced by these experiences, but it can lead to misunderstandings and can get a relationship off to a rocky start. Given the short duration of a Masters’ project there might not be enough time to fix a false start and so I highly recommend you undertake the ‘Expectation of Supervision’ exercise developed by Dr Hugh Kearns ( Click here to open the Expectations of Research supervision download link) . Completing this, first individually, and then as part of a conversation with each supervisee, will ensure that both you and the student(s) you are supervising understand each other and can develop a supervision agreement. It will also help you to begin to recognise each student’s different individual needs, and help you to see how you can tailor your approach to each person.  

It is worth noting here that some students might not be aware of what supervision style ‘works for them’ and a that Masters’ project might be too short to fully figure this out. Do plan in time to reflect on the supervision partnership, and be prepared to make adjustments as needed (e.g., Halse, 2011 )

It will be worthwhile to discuss the expectation questions with others in the supervisory team (if appropriate) to ensure you all agree on your roles and contributions as well. That way the supervisee will benefit from unified, coordinated support, which will improve their experience. 

A Masters project – how much time do they really have? 

One way to plan a realistic and reasonable project is to start with the submission date and work our way back. A typical taught Masters Dissertation is proposed around March or April with a submission date in August. This gives roughly three to four months to produce a draft and a further month to finalise the draft. Not long!

What work needs to be included in this short period? What type of project can be realistically done in this time? What resources are required? What skills and experience does the student already have, and what do they not have? What did you learn through the expectation setting processes (above) that will inform this planning work? Are there points that the project could get stuck, or are there critical elements that would block downstream progress if they were to fail or get held up? It’s worthwhile having a timeline template produced early on, that you can discuss, risk assess, and amend with students you are supervising. 

The same exercise can be applied to MRes projects and doctoral theses as well, noting the appropriate duration and timing differences, of course. And it’s worthwhile finding out if your institution has a ‘Dissertation Supervisor Checklist’ or similar, and if not perhaps create your own? ( Open Tools for the supervisor folder from I Think Well website )

A Masters project – how to change the world one (small) project at a time

It can be tricky or even frustrating to work on a project if the student feels like it is not contributing to the big challenges society faces. Students may wonder, how will a four-month research project help to solve economic crises, find a cure for cancer or help tackle climate change? Reassure them, and maintain motivation, by ensuring the projects are nestled within these big challenges and highlight or map how they fit into the bigger picture. 

It can also help to develop a diagram for how each Masters’ project links to others, builds on previous work you have done, feeds into future doctoral research and contributes to the wider research ambitions of your team, department, school, or university. 

Connecting project and ultimately the researchers can help them feel less isolated and part of the wider researcher community, and it ensures they understand how research doesn’t happen in isolation but is a collaborative and collegial process that builds on the work of others in the local or disciplinary environment. This can then be backed up by ensuring Masters students are invited to attend research meetings, present their work, take part in the wider discussion and become embedded into the community. You never know they might be future collaborators if given the right acknowledgement and encouragement.

Such a project relationship diagram might also, depending on your career ambitions, be something you want to maintain over time and keep as a live document showing your research direction. It could be the start of mapping out your own niche, and a future research strategy for a fellowship or grant proposal.

There is a lot to consider as a Masters supervisor but there are also many rewards it will bring to you in terms of your professional development, your research niche, your standing in your research community and the networks of researchers and collaborators you will build. Enjoy it above all!

Further Resources to check out:

  • Characteristics of good supervision: a multi-perspective qualitative exploration of the Masters in Public Health dissertation
  • What I learned from supervising MSc students during my PhD
  • 6 Tips for dissertation time management

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thesis supervision projects

The Educationalist

thesis supervision projects

Thesis Supervision 101

The educationalist. by alexandra mihai.

thesis supervision projects

Welcome to a new issue of “The Educationalist”! You probably noticed quite a long gap since the last issue- as some of you may know, in the past two weeks I moved to the US to start my Fulbright Schuman Scholarship at Yale University. I am very excited to be working at the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning and I’m looking forward to sharing with you what I learn and what inspires me here in the next six months. In the meantime, this week I want to address a topic that I myself had to plunge into this year: thesis supervision . Luckily, I benefitted a lot from the valuable advice of my colleague, Therese Grohnert and that is why I asked her to share her tips and resources here, which she kindly accepted. We hope you find them useful and we look forward to your comments, experiences and ideas. Happy reading and have a nice week!

If you are currently involved in a taught Master’s programme, then you are most likely a Master thesis supervisor, guiding students in completing an extended research project from planning to finished thesis or dissertation. When you think back to how you got started in this role, did you receive formal support for developing your dissertation skills, did you have access to best practices and advice outside of your own network? In fact, many thesis supervisors receive little to no guidance when getting started , having to rely on their own experiences as a student, or their colleagues’ experiences. This can create quite some uncertainty, when thesis supervision is a wonderful opportunity to work closely with students individually or in small groups, to get students excited about research, and to build their research and project management skills.

In my role as a faculty developer, I often get asked for advice on getting started as a beginning supervisor, on maintaining students’ motivation throughout the process, and on using your limited supervision time effectively. So, I went to work and collected best practices and advice for my colleagues. Let’s walk through the supervision process step by step, from preparing your first supervision to assessing a master’s thesis.

Step 0: Preparing

Before you are assigned your first thesis students, you can already take steps to set yourself and your student up for success:

Check the expectations of the programme regarding the timeline, the final thesis, and what you as a supervisor are expected to do, check the code of practice or contact your thesis coordinator for this information;

Set up ground rules : make explicit how you want to work together with your student, think of how and when you want to be contacted, when and how often you will provide the student with feedback, when you expect the student to speak up and ask for help, etc. More experienced colleagues can share what is common in the programme;

If you are new at your current institution, find out what the support network is like for students , including academic advising, workshops, library support etc. so you can direct the student when needed, and can share the load.

Depending on your programme, you may already formulate tentative topics and you might consider whether you will supervise students individually or in small groups; this will depend on the size of the programme and the autonomy given to students when it comes to choosing a topic.

Step 1: The First Meeting

Once you have the first meeting scheduled with your thesis student, use the following agenda points to prepare with motivation, safety, and effectiveness of the process in mind:

Make time to get to know each other , connect over common interests, background, or goals to build trust and a comfortable atmosphere; encourage the student to speak up when needed and to let you know how they are doing;

Ask your student about their learning goals (not their grade goals!): which skill would they like to learn through the thesis, what are their plans after graduation, and how can the thesis trajectory help them prepare?

Ask the student to share why they are interested in their topic , what they hope to find out and who would benefit from the insights of their thesis before helping them formulate two or three concrete steps to get started.

In this first meeting, be sure to discuss your ground rules and to ask the student how they like to collaborate so you can make specific agreements and manage expectations on all sides.

Step 2: Managing the Process

Throughout the supervision process, it is important that the student takes responsibility for their own their process, and that you support the student in managing the thesis process. My colleagues have shared the following tips for fostering student independence and project management skills :

Ask your student to send in a document or questions in time, to prepare an agenda, and to start each meeting with a short recap of their current project status;

Check in to reflect on the student’s skill development towards their learning goals, as well as any struggles that the student cannot overcome by themselves yet;

At the end of each meeting, ask your student to formulate specific next steps for their work an a clear guidance for when to contact you again for the next meeting (forgetful students can also be encouraged to send you an email with these steps in writing).

In case you are supervising many students, you can create a tracker with key milestones and room for notes for a quick overview, and you can pair up students with a similar topic, method or challenge so they can support each other and you can provide support for these students as a group.

Step 3: Providing Feedback

When and how you provide feedback to your student will depend on the programme guidelines as well as on what your fellow supervisors are offering to their students. In some programmes, students will receive feedback at least once on each chapter of their thesis, while in others, supervisors will focus on a complete draft only. In either case, there are some ways in which you can use your time and energy in an efficient and effective way:

Ask students to submit feedback questions along with their work: which sections did students struggle with, where are they unsure of their work, which element are they not yet happy with and why? This will allow you to focus on these issues first, adding 2-3 additional points when needed to challenge but not overwhelm the student and connect to their current level of learning;

Consider the level of feedback needed : when sections are messy and ineffective, avoid editing your student’s work, but offer to create an outline together before the student reorganises their own work; if paragraphs are not well-organised, edit one paragraph together and ask the student to apply your feedback to the remainder of the section;

Don’t forget to let the student know what they are already doing well and where to apply these good points in future sections – make these comments as specific as you can.

Finally, whether we are experienced supervisors or not, every student is different and may benefit from different ways of providing feedback. Ask you student what works for them and plan together how you will give and how they will process feedback . This is an essential learning skill they will benefit from regardless of their plans after graduation.

Step 4: Assessment

Let’s assume everything has gone well and your student is getting ready to submit their thesis. At some universities, students complete a defense (or viva) in which they discuss their thesis with the supervisor and maybe an independent reader. This part can be daunting for a beginning supervisor, but here are some tips to get started:

Check whether there are any rubrics or assessment criteria available for your programme, who is required to assess a thesis, where to send the final grade, and what happens if the student fails;

If possible, ask experienced colleagues to share a good, an average, and an insufficient thesis with you, along with their assessment and feedback for the student; these documents can help you benchmark your own grading;

Think how you will communicate your grade and feedback to the student , in writing or during a defense; keep the student’s learning goals in mind and make explicit how the student can continue their learning journey based on what they have achieved throughout the thesis trajectory.

If you are unsure, ask a colleague to provide a second opinion and their best practices for the defense/viva and/or providing written feedback. As with any skill, becoming a good thesis supervisor takes experience, reflection, and feedback . I am curious to hear your experiences and best practices, and am happy to discuss our faculty development activities on thesis supervision with anyone interested – looking forward to connecting with you!

Further resources

“Understanding the up, back, and forward-component in master's thesis supervision with adaptivity” , by Renske A.M. de Kleijn, Larike H. Bronkhorst, Paulien C. Meijer, Albert Pilot & Mieke Brekelmans- a qualitative study for framing and fostering goals in the supervision process;

The UM Library Thesis Bookshelf - helpful resources for supervisors and students on academic writing and literature reviews;

Tips and resources for supervising remotely - University of Edinburg’s best practices for remote supervision;

Master thesis supervision: resources on preparing, managing and assessing theses - resources from our own SBE Learning Academy, including videos for supervisors and resources that can be shared with students;

The LDO Troubleshooting Guide to Academic Writing - an interactive tool we use in our programme that helps students process feedback on the thesis or to deal with various writing struggles;

A Practical Guide to Projects and Dissertations - an online course developed by the Centre for Distance Education, University of London, that has both resources dedicated to students and an Instructor Tool Kit.

Dr. Therese Grohnert is an educational developer, educator, and assistant professor at Maastricht University’s School of Business and Economics in The Netherlands. She supports staff in effectively supervising master theses, managing group dynamics in a PBL context and designing courses with constructive alignment and student motivation in mind. She is also studying how professionals learn and develop in the workplace for better judgments and decision-making. Find her on Twitter: @grohnerttherese .

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Bachelor’s and Master’s theses are excellent ways for students to dive deep into a research question and gain in-depth knowledge about a research topic. At the end of a curriculum, theses act as a kind of bridge between the educational stage and work or further study. Thesis supervision is a resource-intensive task and often a critical factor for the quality of a thesis. After decades of experience with different methods, we have developed a concept for continuous thesis supervision and applied it to two specific degree programs at our university, the Bachelor’s program in Computer Science and Digital Communication and the Master’s program in Software Design and Engineering. Compared to traditional supervision methods, this concept has led to a higher adherence to deadlines and to a higher quality of the final theses. In this paper, we present our findings on different types of supervisors and our concept for continuous thesis supervision, which can be adapted to each identified supervisor type. This concept comprises several methods, intended to inspire other supervisors to choose the set of methods that best suits their needs.

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Schefer-Wenzl, S., Miladinovic, I. (2022). An Approach for Continuous Supervision of Bachelor’s and Master’s Theses in Engineering Studies. In: Guralnick, D., Auer, M.E., Poce, A. (eds) Innovations in Learning and Technology for the Workplace and Higher Education. TLIC 2021. Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems, vol 349. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-90677-1_30

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Thesis supervision

Find a thesis supervisor.

Thesis supervisors must be authorized by their Faculty to supervise theses.

Finding a thesis supervisor arrow_drop_down

Before thinking about a supervisor, students should make sure they are committing to the area of study that most interests them. They should ask themselves whether they are enthusiastic enough about a topic area to sustain this enthusiasm over the period of time it will take to prepare the thesis. Speaking to students and professors who do research in the proposed area of study will help clarify the students’ thoughts. The students should make sure they are well-informed before they approach any potential supervisors.

A professor is not obligated to take on a student if he or she feels the match-up would not be a good one, or if the professor lacks lab space, time or funding.

A student may have more than one supervisor. When mention is made of the thesis supervisor, it is implicit that there may be a co-supervisor.

  • Information to collect before contacting a potential supervisor
  • Questions to ask after the meeting with the potential supervisor
  • Professors, by research interest

Appointment of a thesis supervisor arrow_drop_down

From the uoZone Application tab, click Service Requests to create a service request and appoint a thesis supervisor.

Meetings between the supervisor and the student arrow_drop_down

Preliminary meetings.

Before a student begins researching and writing a thesis, the supervisor and the student should have a detailed discussion of expectations and requirements. Below are examples of general and specific issues to be discussed during the preliminary meetings.

As soon as possible, the student should obtain ethics approvals or any other required approvals to conduct research. The student should discuss with the thesis supervisor and visit the  Office of Research Ethics and Integrity  Website.

  • General and specific topics to be discussed

Regular meetings

The student and the supervisor should plan to meet regularly whether or not the student has any finished work to show to the supervisor.

If it is a major meeting, the student should draw up and deliver to the supervisor an agenda beforehand. If the meeting is to discuss text that has already been written, the student must send the draft well in advance of the meeting. 

After the meeting, and based on this agenda, the student prepares a brief report on what was discussed and decided, and shares this report with the supervisor.

It is important to be productive at these major meetings, but it is also crucial to just keep in touch.

Components of a typical agenda

  • a summary of the purpose of the meeting
  • a review of what was discussed at the previous meeting and what has been accomplished to date
  • a discussion and clarification of the current topics, ideas and issues
  • next steps as a result of this discussion
  • agree with a date for the next meeting

Feedback and revision arrow_drop_down

All along during the thesis preparation process, a student will receive feedback and should expect to do revisions. Revising a thesis based on feedback from the thesis supervisor, advisory committee (if applicable) and from the jury is an important part of the thesis preparation process.

Part of the advancement of knowledge that preparing a thesis fosters involves engaging in dialogue and learning from these discussions, learning how to communicate clearly, and responding appropriately to suggestions for improvement

student carrying books

Already a student?

Types of supervision, co-supervision arrow_drop_down.

A joint management with a professor in another discipline may be considered if the research project of a student is favoured.

Cotutelle arrow_drop_down

A doctoral student may prepare a thesis under a cotutelle agreement. You find below additional information to help familiarize yourself with the roles played by each of the stakeholders.  

Learn more about Cotutelle.

Thesis advisory committee arrow_drop_down

In many academic units, a thesis advisory committee, also referred to as thesis committee, is assembled as soon as a student finds a thesis supervisor. Please note that not all academic units have thesis committees, the students must check on the protocol in their own academic unit.

Constitution of the thesis committee

How the thesis committee is formed varies from academic unit to academic unit. The thesis supervisor plays the biggest role by approaching colleagues who have the expertise and inviting them to join the committee.

A thesis committee is made up of:

  • the student
  • the thesis supervisor, and
  • usually at least two other professors.

The thesis supervisor is usually the chair of the thesis committee.

Role of the thesis committee

While the roles and responsibilities of thesis committees may vary from one academic unit to another, members of the committee should provide guidance to the student on thesis planning, research and writing; be available to discuss ideas or for consultation on any other matter related to the thesis; and, if this is the practice within the discipline, evaluate the thesis after submission.

Thesis committees meet according to a schedule set either by the academic unit or by the committee itself. The student is usually responsible for initiating the meetings. When concerns about the progress of the research arise, the supervisor and/or academic unit may require meetings at more frequent intervals.

Useful information

Contracts arrow_drop_down.

Some supervisors and students have contracts or agreements to formalize the expectations and delineate the responsibilities in the preparation of a thesis.

Although these agreements are not considered official documents with force of law, they set out the expectations of the student and supervisor in relation to many of the issues covered in this Website section and help avoid conflict and misunderstandings.

A student should not make assumptions about who will do what in the research and who gets credit for any new discoveries or inventions. A supervisor should not assume the supervised student is aware of any assumptions the supervisor has or any authorship or credit protocols that may exist in the area of research.

Professors who use contracts do so because they have found such agreements are a good tool for helping students achieve their goals and finish their theses. However, while a written agreement can be very useful, one of the keys to a successful supervisor–student relationship is good communication and mutual trust. Both sides need to foster and build on that. 

Absences arrow_drop_down

Sometimes a potential supervisor is approached by a student looking for a thesis supervisor and both the student and professor agree it would be a good match, but the professor is going on an academic leave partway through the period in which the student will be preparing this thesis. In the event of a scheduled absence from the University for more than one month, the thesis supervisor must make the necessary arrangements with his students and the academic unit concerned to ensure that students continue to be accompanied during the supervisor's absence.

A thesis supervisor who is going to be away should let the student know well in advance. The same goes for the student. The student should discuss this with the thesis supervisor well ahead of time. In case of illness, the student should let the supervisor know the expected timeline for recovery.

If the student is planning to suspend work on the thesis for a term or more, for whatever reason, the student needs to apply for and receive approval for a leave of absence. Please note that absence has an impact on eligibility for funding.

Professionalism arrow_drop_down

As a student, the development of professional skills—for example, communicating appropriately in writing and in person, responding promptly to e-mails, coming prepared to meetings, following up after meetings, respecting deadlines, tracking changes to the text so that it is easy for the supervisor to review each draft after revisions—is important in the preparation of the thesis. Some faculties offer courses in professional skills.

If the student feels aspects of the supervisor’s behavior are unprofessional, he or she should consult the graduate program director or the chair of the academic unit.

Changing supervisors arrow_drop_down

As for changing supervisors partway through a thesis, this is not recommended. Keep in mind that as long as the thesis is logical and the conclusions drawn from the data are valid, the student and the supervisor do not need to be in total agreement on methodology, analysis or interpretation.

The thesis committee may be able to fill in whatever gaps the student perceives in the relationship with the supervisor. If the research goes off in an unexpected direction, one that is not very familiar to the thesis supervisor, the student could see what opportunities are available and what guidelines the academic unit has for this situation. The student could consider joint supervision as an alternative to finding a new supervisor.

If the student has explored all other options and still wish to change supervisors, he or she should talk to the graduate program director. If the supervisor happens to be the graduate program director, the student should talk to the director of the academic unit. If the student remains uncertain or dissatisfied, he or she should talk to the vice-dean graduate studies of his/her home faculty. Beyond that, the student can talk to the university ombudsperson. The student can request that the exchanges with any or all of these individuals (directors, vice-dean, ombudsperson) remain confidential.

The student should be sure to explore options carefully before withdrawing from the supervisory arrangement—a student who terminates the relationship with a supervisor before finding another supervisor may have difficulty securing another supervisor and compromise the thesis project.

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Computer Science > Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition

Title: ov-dquo: open-vocabulary detr with denoising text query training and open-world unknown objects supervision.

Abstract: Open-Vocabulary Detection (OVD) aims to detect objects from novel categories beyond the base categories on which the detector is trained. However, existing open-vocabulary detectors trained on known category data tend to assign higher confidence to trained categories and confuse novel categories with background. To resolve this, we propose OV-DQUO, an \textbf{O}pen-\textbf{V}ocabulary DETR with \textbf{D}enoising text \textbf{Q}uery training and open-world \textbf{U}nknown \textbf{O}bjects supervision. Specifically, we introduce a wildcard matching method that enables the detector to learn from pairs of unknown objects recognized by the open-world detector and text embeddings with general semantics, mitigating the confidence bias between base and novel categories. Additionally, we propose a denoising text query training strategy that synthesizes additional noisy query-box pairs from open-world unknown objects to trains the detector through contrastive learning, enhancing its ability to distinguish novel objects from the background. We conducted extensive experiments on the challenging OV-COCO and OV-LVIS benchmarks, achieving new state-of-the-art results of 45.6 AP50 and 39.3 mAP on novel categories respectively, without the need for additional training data. Models and code are released at this https URL

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IMAGES

  1. SUPERVISION: Thesis Projects AT THE SIBERIAN FEDERAL UNIVERSITY

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  2. The proposed blended approach to be utilised in thesis supervision

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  3. (PDF) Thesis supervision

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  4. Student Thesis Project Supervision

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  5. THESIS CO-SUPERVISION AGREEMENT Doc Template

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  6. Fillable Online oise utoronto Thesis Supervision Form

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VIDEO

  1. Thesis Writing and Supervision: Chapter 1

  2. Superior road stabilization works in Cambodia

  3. Thesis Writing and Supervision: Chapter 2

  4. Janell Shah

  5. Thesis Writing and Supervision: Chapter 4

  6. Thesis Writing and Supervision: Chapter 3

COMMENTS

  1. Research and project supervision (all levels): an introduction

    Styles of supervision. Supervisory styles are often conceptualized on a spectrum from laissez-faire to more contractual or from managerial to supportive. Every supervisor will adopt different approaches to supervision depending on their own preferences, the individual relationship and the stage the student is at in the project.

  2. Effective master's thesis supervision

    Second, in grasping the process that facilitates student and supervisor outcomes in the context of master's thesis supervision, we assume that this process is characterised by inherent uncertainty, deriving from differences in students, supervisors, and their interactions, as well as different approaches, methods, and timelines across projects ...

  3. Eight tips to effectively supervise students during their Master's thesis

    Adapt supervision to the student Each student requires a different type of supervision, and we tried to adapt our styles to accommodate that. That could mean using Trello project-management boards or a shared Google Doc to record tasks; defining tasks in detail and walking through them carefully; or taking extra time to explain and to fill ...

  4. PDF 7-A Supervisor'S Roles for Successful Thesis and Dissertation

    Five supportive roles. of a supervisor involving the supervision system are specific technical support, broader intellectual support, administrative support, management, and personal support brings about the output of the study. A supervisor's roles. for successful thesis and dissertation is reported by using the survey on graduate students ...

  5. Guide for Thesis Supervisors

    Guide for Thesis Supervisors. Thank you for supervising an individualized major senior thesis project. Your expertise is critical in guiding the student's project and setting the criteria for its evaluation. The guidelines below outline some considerations particular to individualized major students. They are most appropriate for traditional ...

  6. The journey of thesis supervisors from novice to expert: a grounded

    Supervision is a well-defined term in the interpersonal relationship between thesis supervisors and students. A supervisor is designated to assist the student's development in terms of their research project [1,2,3].Faculty members supervise the students because qualified supervision leads to success on the part of the student, and it has moral, reputational, and financial outcomes for the ...

  7. Getting started with supervising Masters projects

    By Dr Stephanie Zihms, Lecturer in Researcher Development, University of the West of Scotland. Image created by S Zihms using Canva I offer this post as an introduction to the process of supervising Masters Degree projects, and I will cover how to craft an appropriately sized project, build good working relationships, and ensure timely completion and reporting.

  8. Thesis Supervision 101

    Thesis Supervision 101. The Educationalist. By Alexandra Mihai. Alexandra Mihai. Mar 07, 2022. Welcome to a new issue of "The Educationalist"! You probably noticed quite a long gap since the last issue- as some of you may know, in the past two weeks I moved to the US to start my Fulbright Schuman Scholarship at Yale University.

  9. An Approach for Continuous Supervision of Bachelor's and ...

    The supervision process has repeatedly been shown to be an important aspect for the success of a thesis project . Different types of supervisors have been identified , and there exist several recommendations and guidelines for supervising scientific theses . In this paper, we analyze goals and challenges of scientific theses, present a ...

  10. PDF Best practices for doctoral thesis supervision

    This document aims to provide thesis supervisors with a series of best practices and recommendations for supervising doctoral students at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. The document is divided into four parts: Definition, Planning, Monitoring and Assessment. They cover the main activities developed by doctoral thesis supervisors.

  11. PDF Blended Supervision for Thesis Projects in Higher Education: A ...

    Blended Supervision for Thesis Projects in Higher Education: A Case Study Thashmee Karunaratne Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, Kista, Sweden [email protected] Abstract: The thesis component of a degree program is vital since the quality of it contributes to the quality of the whole degree.

  12. Master's thesis supervision: relations between perceptions of the

    Master's thesis supervision is a complex task given the two-fold goal of the thesis (learning and assessment). An important aspect of supervision is the supervisor-student relationship. This quantitative study (N = 401) investigates how perceptions of the supervisor-student relationship are related to three dependent variables: final grade ...

  13. PDF Master's Thesis Supervision Guidelines for Students & Supervisors

    Supervision Guidelines for Masters Students and Supervisors (THESIS)i. These guidelines should be regarded as something to help in the planning and conduct during the MA Thesis program. The purpose is to make expectations explicit between supervisors and masters students at an early stage. Clear expectations about the responsibilities of both ...

  14. How to get great thesis supervision

    Here are some tips on where to start: 1. Check out their profile on their chair's website (many people list research interests there). 2. Take a look at their publications: if they have not ...

  15. The supervisor and student in Bachelor thesis supervision: a broad

    The scope and goals of the thesis project are specified in the Swedish Higher Education Act and local policy documents for the universities. ... Focusing on thesis supervision at the Bachelor level, this study has aimed to map the supervisor and student roles that emerge from data collected in a Swedish university context. Given the strong ...

  16. Supervisor and Student Perspectives on Undergraduate Thesis Supervision

    In this study, we regard research supervision as a teaching process for the supervisor and a learning process for the student (Bruce & Stoodley, 2013; Franke & Arvidsson, 2011). Research on academic supervision is. CONTACT Bas T. Agricola [email protected] Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University, Heidelberglaan 1 ...

  17. Thesis supervision

    Find a thesis supervisor. Thesis supervisors must be authorized by their Faculty to supervise theses. Finding a thesis supervisor arrow_drop_down. Appointment of a thesis supervisor arrow_drop_down. Meetings between the supervisor and the student arrow_drop_down. Feedback and revision arrow_drop_down.

  18. PDF GUIDE FOR HIGHER DEGREE RESEARCH SUPERVISION

    Thesis. The quality of the research project depends on a number of factors critical among them is the quality of supervision. This guide has been developed as a resource for higher research degree students and supervisors of KNUST. It outlines the key principles of higher re-search degree supervision and as well provides some practical advice

  19. Master's thesis projects: Student perceptions of ...

    Master's thesis projects: Student perceptions of supervisor feedback. March 2013. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 38 (8):1012-1026. DOI: 10.1080/02602938.2013.777690. Authors:

  20. Supervising graduation projects in higher professional education

    Findings suggested that well documented and communicated thesis supervision regulations and including face-to-face interactions with online supervision could make some improvements to the outcomes ...

  21. Master's thesis projects: student perceptions of supervisor feedback

    A growing body of research has investigated student perceptions of written feedback in higher education coursework, but few studies have considered feedback perceptions in one-on-one and face-to-face contexts such as master's thesis projects. In this article, student perceptions of feedback are explored in the context of the supervision of master's thesis projects, using review studies ...

  22. Master's thesis supervision: relations between perceptions of the

    Master's thesis supervision is a complex task given the two-fold goal of the thesis (learning and assessment). An important aspect of supervision is the supervisor-student relationship. This quantitative study (N = 401) investigates how perceptions of the supervisor-student relationship are related to three dependent variables: final grade, perceived supervisor contribution to learning ...

  23. School of Visual Arts presents ten senior thesis interior design projects

    Student: Meixi Xu. Course: Senior Thesis. Tutors: Gita Nandan and Anthony Lee. Email: mxu1 [at]3sva.edu. The Bridge by Charlotte Chuyan Zhou. "The vision for The Bridge is to design a versatile ...

  24. Supervisor and Student Perspectives on Undergraduate Thesis Supervision

    Research on academic supervision is often focused on master thesis supervision (e.g., de Kleijn et al., Citation 2015) or doctoral supervision (e.g., ... The students wrote their thesis alone or in pairs and had 20 weeks to conduct their research project and write their thesis (30 ECTS; 840 h). During the course, the students had approximately ...

  25. [2405.18955] RGB-T Object Detection via Group Shuffled Multi-receptive

    Multispectral object detection, utilizing both visible (RGB) and thermal infrared (T) modals, has garnered significant attention for its robust performance across diverse weather and lighting conditions. However, effectively exploiting the complementarity between RGB-T modals while maintaining efficiency remains a critical challenge. In this paper, a very simple Group Shuffled Multi-receptive ...

  26. [2405.17913] OV-DQUO: Open-Vocabulary DETR with Denoising Text Query

    Open-Vocabulary Detection (OVD) aims to detect objects from novel categories beyond the base categories on which the detector is trained. However, existing open-vocabulary detectors trained on known category data tend to assign higher confidence to trained categories and confuse novel categories with background. To resolve this, we propose OV-DQUO, an \\textbf{O}pen-\\textbf{V}ocabulary DETR ...