Tag Archives: supervisor

Checking your progress each month


Monitor Lizard by mattharvey1, Attribution-NoDerivs Licence

Reviewing your progress each month is a wonderful way to help keep yourself on track. Even better if you do this review with your supervisor, so make it a point of meeting with or emailing your supervisor every month. Every single month.

This gives you a regular deadline to work to. Each month, with your supervisor, you can set tasks that you plan to complete. At the end of each month you report back on progress. Look back on your research journal to see what has happened – often lots more than you remember. Not keeping a research journal? See this posting for why you should start now.

In this posting Arjenne Louter, The Dutch PhD Coach, talks about 5 questions to ask yourself at the end of each month and how doing this will help you stay on track to meet your deadlines.


Using feedback from your supervisor


supervisor role by Pearl Pirie, Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

It can be tough dealing with feedback from your supervisor. As Katherine Firth from Research Degree Voodoo explains in this posting, a lot of the comments can be negative and often there doesn’t seem much positive. Also sometimes what they mean is not at all clear. Its one thing for your supervisor to see a problem, but its another thing for them to explain it to someone else, and yet another thing for them to do it in such a way that you can understand, and also feel empowered to fix it.

In a previous post I have talked about some ideas to help you work with your supervisor and Katherine’s post also has some more excellent advice about tactics and strategies you can use to address the feedback you get from your supervisor. Her advice about learning to distinguish between the different kinds of corrections is particularly valuable. Take a look.


Helping your supervisor help you – ten things to think about when submitting drafts


Ploughing Old & New by Trevor Dennis Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

It’s a really good idea to sort out with your supervisor how they would like you to work with them right from the beginning. Here are ten things that you can do that I think will really help your supervisor to give you good feedback on your drafts.

  1. Make a timeline plan and set yourself some deadlines to complete parts of your work. Send this to your supervisor so they know when to expect your work and can make themselves available or let you know in advance if they are not going to be able to look at it quickly. Then keep your deadlines!
  2. Send your supervisor parts of your work to look at frequently rather than waiting till you have a big lump finished near the end. You need to get advice before you get too far down the track so your supervisor can check you are on the right track and have the right scope.
  3. At the beginning you should send outlines and annotated bibliographies. Once you start writing you should send chunks of about 3000 words. Send the whole document, but point out which 3000 words you would like your supervisor to be commenting on. This way they can see the section in context, but don’t have to read a long document from the beginning. This will help them be able to get back to you more quickly. You can be working on another section while your supervisor checks over the one you have sent them.
  4. Although your early drafts will not be expected to be completely well-crafted writing, you should pay attention to spelling and punctuation and make sure your writing is at least somewhat understandable! It can be hard for your supervisor to see past really poor writing and be able to comment on the actual content.
  5. Include your name on the document, a date and page numbers. Save the electronic file with your name in the title.
  6. Use Word’s heading level styles so your supervisor can easily see the sections of your document and where the chunk you are sending fits in, even if the other sections are not yet complete. See this post for help using Word’s heading styles.
  7. Include a table of contents with page numbers. See this post for help making tables of contents in Word.
  8. Always always always include a reference list . You need to work with Endnote (or your other reference management software) right from the word go so getting set up with this should be one of your first priorities.
  9. Your supervisor might insert comments and tracked changes into your electronic document. Ensure you are set up to view these and understand how to remove comments as you deal with them. See this post for more detail on using tracked changes in Word.
  10. Deal with every single comment your supervisor makes. Do not ignore them!
  • Sometimes your supervisor will make suggestions you don’t agree with. You must still address them. You need to explain to your supervisor why you don’t think you should make that change and provide your reasons when you submit your next draft. Using the comments tool in Word is a good way to do this.
  • Sometimes you will think of a better way to deal with the issue the supervisor raises. So tell your supervisor about this with comments in your next draft.
  • Sometimes you might not understand a supervisor’s comment. You need to think carefully about it. Do some more reading. Give it some time. If you still really don’t understand, then ask for clarification on the next draft.

Big picture feedback vs small picture feedback

The bigger picture

The bigger picture by Aditya Sahay Attribution License

Sometimes it seems like your supervisor wants endless changes. You fix the things they said to fix, and then they tell you about more things to fix. Why didn’t they just tell you about all the problems in the first place?

Well one reason is that they know that there are big picture things that need to be dealt with before the small picture things can be addressed. Some problems might not become apparent until the biggest picture things have been dealt with. And they also know that all writing, needs multiple revisions.

Learning to look out for big picture and small picture stuff yourself will help you improve the drafts you send to supervisors. This webpage at the Purdue University OWL website gives a good explanation.

Higher Order Concerns (HOCs) and Lower Order Concerns (LOCs) in writing
Purdue Online Writing Lab