How to choose your PhD research supervisor. What are the things that we have to take into consideration research topic, methodology personality? What else is there? Well today let’s talk about a few key considerations regarding how to choose your research supervisor.
A PhD project typically takes between three to six years, so you’ll be working with your supervisor for quite a long time. So it makes sense to think about how to choose the right one, I will cover some pretty obvious and common sensical factors as well as some seemingly politically incorrect factors but which I believe are relevant.
Again, a quick disclaimer here PhD programs can be very different, different universities do things differently, too. So what I talk about in this article is just general information there based on my experiences and experiences of my friends and colleagues.
These are not legal advice. And everything I’m presenting this article is just for your reading pleasure and potential consideration.
So factor number one, and this is an obvious one,
Look up and read the Publications’ of the supervisor you’re interested in:
This is to clear your doubt if indeed he/she is a proper academic. This is of course, assuming that you do want to do a serious and proper PhD in a proper University. Look, if all you want is just the degree, I mean, you can purchase one pretty cheaply.
So maybe you should go ahead and do that just purchase a degree online, that will save you five years of work. But if you want to do a proper PhD with a proper supervisor at a reputable University, then you should read the research papers that this potential supervisor has published so that you can see if he or she is indeed a real expert in the field
Be Willing To Be A Little Bit Flexible With a Research Topic:
So the potential supervisor might actually ask you to tweak or adjust your topic a little bit.
Or perhaps the supervisors published research theme is similar to your topic, but it is a little bit different. So my personal suggestion here is this be willing to show a little bit of flexibility when it comes to the research topic.
There are two main reasons for this first,
If you really like the supervisor, if your personalities fit.If you’re working style fit, all other circumstances fit very well.
Both the university and the faculty are highly reputable and highly ranked then be a little bit flexible when it comes to the research topic. The fact of the matter is there are so many different variables, which should factor into our decision when it comes to choosing the research supervisor. And the research topic is just one of those variables.
There are other important factors to consider. And the other reason why I am advocating a little bit of flexibility, when it comes to the research topic is this, you will be working on this topic for the next four or five or six years.
So no matter how interesting you think your topic is right now, that will probably change no matter how perfect or exciting or extremely interesting you think your topic is right now. But if you work on it continuously for years on end that will probably change. It just becomes your work.
And all that excitement and passion and enthusiasm and how significant and important and inspirational this topic is, these things will just gradually fizzle out. So don’t get too hung up on your perfectly defined research topic, be willing to adjust it. And let us keep in mind that the research topic is just one of the variables that should factor into our final decision as to where and with whom we should do our doctoral research.
Research Methodological Fit
You might say, hey, you already suggested that we should be flexible when it comes to our research topic. So probably you’re also suggesting we should be flexible when it comes to research methodology.
Well, I would say if you could be flexible with your research methodology, that’s great. But my personal experiences have been it is relatively easy to adjust research topics because really there are so many interesting topics on which you can do research.
But research methodology is especially if we’re talking about a doctoral research project, well, that might be quite difficult to change substantially. I mean, one can probably make some small adjustments, but it is hard to change the whole methodology.
This is because differences in research methodological approaches are often associated with differences in people’s ontological and epistemological beliefs. So if you were to say to a qualitative researcher who genuinely subscribes to constructivism and ask him or her to do a completely quantitative doctoral research project, well, that might not be so easy and the other way around.
And this is not even taking into account the necessary training that is needed for a person to apply a different research methodology than the one that he or she is used to or trained for. And that is why if you’re a PhD student looking for a supervisor, it is rather important to be sure that your preferred research methodological approach and your supervisors preferred research methodological approach actually fit.
Considering the fact that you and your supervisors will be working quite closely together for a number of years. It is important that there is a good relationship and how to build a good relationship with a supervisor is something that I might cover in a future article.
But for now, let’s just say this boom are looking for or choosing a supervisor, it is actually very helpful to the building of that good relationship in the future, if there is good chemistry between you and this person.
So when you and this potential supervisor meet for the first time, do you feel comfortable with this person?And do you think this person is comfortable with you?Do you feel like that this is somebody with whom you can work for a number of years to come?
If you’re looking for a PhD supervisor, if you are starting with a PhD project, it means you already have a master’s degree, it means you are already highly educated, it means you are already a highly intelligent person.
So listen to your instincts. First impressions could be wrong. But first impressions are also very powerful and even influential for building future relationships. And I don’t mind telling you a little bit about my personal experiences.
When I was starting my PhD quite some years ago, when I was meeting with different supervisors and professors from different universities, to the professor with whom eventually I had the pleasure to collaborate with somebody who made me feel very good.
We had a couple of initial meetings talking about the research project and discussing different issues regarding the project. And he simply made me feel very comfortable. He also made me feel very confident about myself in the project, he was not intimidating, and he didn’t make me feel inadequate, or insecure, even though he was a great academic in his own right.
And every time we met, the interaction gave me confidence and motivation instead of taking them away. So I really liked him. And this good chemistry meant when during the PC project, when we had difficulties or differences of opinions, those problems were relatively easy to manage or resolve because we had a good relationship, because there was a good foundation on the basis of which problems could be worked out.
And that is why I believe good chemistry matters, a good relationship matters.
There are some seemingly politically incorrect factors that we’re not supposed to think about or talk about, but they are probably relevant in some way. And here, I will be very careful discussing these things because I do not want people to accuse me of being biased, prejudiced and discriminatory.
For example, I would never say that you shouldn’t work with an older professor, because that would be ageist and discriminatory. So let’s do this hypothetical. Instead, let’s say hypothetically, you know that your PhD is going to be three and a half years, and the professor you have chosen to work with will only retire in four or four and a half years. So there should be no problem the time should fit.
However, during your PhD due to whatever reason your project gets delayed, maybe there’s something wrong with the data analysis, or perhaps a particular data set needs to be recollected whatever it is, but there is the delay.
And because of that, ultimately, you end up finishing a PhD in five and a half years instead of three and a half years. So this would mean that you will need to have a new supervisor for that crucial last year, right before submission defense, because your initial supervisor had retired by then, of course, when something like this happens, the university would have different kinds of remedies for you, perhaps your second supervisor would simply become your first supervisor, or maybe a new supervisor would be assigned to you, or perhaps the department head would take things over until you finish.
But when these things happen, whatever solution the university might come up for you usually it is not very nice for the PhD student, I had friends who had to switch PG supervisors halfway their PC project. And when that happened, well, like I said, that wasn’t very nice. So my point is this, it will be wrong for anyone to be ageist.
And in my little example, there, the issue was not about the age of the supervisor per se, it was about this person’s ability to see your project through. Obviously, we shouldn’t discriminate based on a person’s age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc, we should look beyond the surface level factors and try to tap into deeper level indicators as to whether or not a potential supervisor is going to fit with ourselves when we choose and select research supervisors.
Enquire about the Supervisor:
And by this I mean, if you’re interested in a particular professor, to be your supervisor, talk to people who know that person people who have worked with him or her or students whom this person is currently supervising or hasn’t recently supervised.
Again, when I was looking for a PhD supervisor, myself, and especially about the ones whom I was quite interested in, I spoke with her colleagues, students or former students, basically whoever was willing to talk with me. I spoke with him because I wanted to know what this professor was like,
do people like him?What does he do exactly in the faculty?how busy is he?Will he have time for me and my project?What’s his reputation like?
It is important to note here, we shouldn’t necessarily believe everything that we hear. We should take everything that these people tell us with a grain of salt and this is not because these people might be trying to mislead you or lie to you. It is simply because people are different. People’s opinions are subjective.
But even then, I do think it is useful to talk to these socially relevant others and hear what they have to say about the professor whom you’re interested in, perhaps some of the things that they say are not 100% accurate.
But overall, I would still say talking to these people is a good idea as it might bring you new perspectives and considerations that you had not thought of before. Furthermore, these people might become very relevant for you, too.
If you were to start working with this particular professor, for example, I talking to the students who are currently under the supervision of this professor, you get a pretty good sense as to whether or not you would fit into that team or department. So I say, if you could do a little bit of detective work. So these are the six things that popped up in my head concerning how to choose a research supervisor.
Ultimately, it is about the fit between you and the supervisor fit in terms of research topics, research, methodological approaches, personalities, working styles, communication styles, ambition levels, and a bunch of other factors, some of which might be too politically incorrect, and I’m not supposed to talk about them explicitly. And like I said, if you are starting with your PhD process, it means you are already a highly educated person, you’re already a very intelligent person. So listen to your instincts, and I wish for you all that you will be able to find a fitting and good supervisor to collaborate with in the coming years.
So did I forget anything?
Are there other important factors that I forgot to cover?
Do you agree with or disagree with the things that I said in this article?
Leave your thoughts and comments down below and if your comment is a good one, then people will like it and upload it and everybody will see it. So leave a comment. Alright, thank you for reading, I’ll see you next time.
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