I cannot remember how many I have supervised, but the number runs to well over 80, and I have examined even more than that. I am still in touch with many former students and examinees, and have been delighted to follow their careers wherever they are in the world. If a relationship between supervisor and postgraduate works well, it can be life-changing for the student and deeply rewarding for the supervisor. I have learned so much from supervising PhDs, and have been directed along new paths that I would not have discovered otherwise.
There have been occasions when a student would arrive in my office with a bag full of books that he or she felt I should read: a living demonstration of the fact that it is not always the supervisor who provides all the bibliographical information. I always start by telling students three things: that I will read every word they write in draft and then in final copy; that if they can get me to approve the thesis, given how tough I am going to be with them, then they have a very good chance of getting it past the examiners; and that they should not be discouraged if they find that their work is shifting direction after a few months.
Writing a humanities PhD is an organic process, and if ideas have not started to develop by the end of the first year, then something is going wrong. Supervisors are particularly important at this stage, to provide reassurance and to help the student move forward. Supervising PhDs is rewarding because you can see the process of intellectual development unfolding before your eyes. But it is also an intensely time-consuming task.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
All the various calculations of hourly allocation for supervision are absurd: if you are going to supervise properly, then you have to be prepared to spend hours reading drafts and then talking to the student. There are some supervisors who do not write anything on drafts, preferring to correct only a final version.
I find this ridiculously unhelpful. The whole point of reading drafts is to give proper feedback, and in the case of international students this kind of detailed reading is essential. Academic writing courses help, but careful editing by a supervisor is vital. They also need to address spelling, punctuation, style and structure.
Sometimes I have proposed radical structural changes, such as moving material from a conclusion into the introduction and vice versa. Such suggestions can be responsibly made only after you do a final read-through of the whole thesis — and that final reading is essential because although you may have read individual chapters or sections over several years, only the student will have a clear idea of how they want it to fit together. It is also important to provide a written summary of general points after reading each draft. I learned early on that trying to do this verbally does not work because a student is often anxious and so does not take everything in.
These C's Make PhDs
An email with bullet points works best. But all criticism, however negative, should be presented in such a way as to offer solutions and to help the student with the next stage in writing. One of the problems facing supervisors in the UK is that the hours they put in are never adequately acknowledged by university management. Not only can this impose undue pressures on specialists in popular fields, it is also conceptually misconceived.
Supervision should take both student and supervisor down relatively unexplored paths. When it comes to choosing an examiner, practices vary widely. I have heard colleagues state firmly that the student should have no input, but I consult with mine because it is important to find out whether they have been in contact with any potential examiners. Also, despite clear guidelines, some universities still do not appoint anyone to chair the viva, which means that if a student feels hard done by, there is no independent witness.
That only makes the choice of examiner even more important. My research would be so much poorer without the help that I have received, directly and indirectly, from my doctoral students. Susan Bassnett is professor of comparative literature at the universities of Warwick and Glasgow. Some students cheat. But is this a one-sided view? The results were formally approved by the relevant research council and were published as a series of seven papers in major, peer-reviewed journals. The degree was not awarded: the examiners claimed that none of my seven papers had deserved publication — even though they had satisfied a total of 14 independent referees.
The examiners had decided all 14 were wrong. So what did I do? I got on with my life. Incredibly, some of these papers had been referenced before my viva. Clearly, this was perverse, dishonest and highly unprofessional conduct: the viva had been deliberately biased. I asked for acknowledgement that the viva had been biased. Where there is evidence of malpractice, it should not matter when the viva was held: bias was deliberate and obvious, and the university could have followed up. Hiding behind process is a deeply inadequate response to such a blatant and egregious case.
Nowadays, so-called historic cases of injustice and abuse, some from many decades ago, are being recognised and investigated. So why is corruption in education treated differently? Examinations might be more equitable if, before the viva, candidates were officially entitled to raise concerns about their examiners — any concerns being addressed independently of the college or university. Such adjudication might seldom be needed, but it should still be in place. Examiners, after all, are people. And people — from students to presidents — do not always possess the levels of integrity and honesty that we naively expect of them.
Candidates should not be expected to accept a particular examiner if they can offer valid reasons for not doing so. And any university that seeks to impose a disputed examiner should be asked to reconsider its definition of fair play. Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online.
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Of monsters and mentors: PhD disasters, and how to avoid them. June 1, By Contributors. Share on twitter Share on facebook Share on linkedin Share on whatsapp Share on mail 9. I had never felt so helpless in my life. The university wholly and blindly supported my supervisors, ignored my concerns and suggested, again, that I was making things up When I was offered a fully funded doctorate in a UK environmental science laboratory, I was delighted and accepted instantly. The author prefers to remain anonymous.
If you want to supervise and mentor with integrity and thoughtfulness, it is ultimately up to you to decide to do so, and to make the rules. You cannot assume good ethics on the part of your department The power that you as a supervisor have over a student or postdoc is immense. PhD students are often made to feel like they are a huge burden on their supervisors, and they are frequently ignored and unsupported Tom sent his supervisor a chapter of his PhD thesis to read six weeks ago. This person can help to alleviate concerns and act as an intermediary when necessary There should be an anonymous procedure within each department that PhD students can use to complain or give feedback about their supervisor Supervisors should be formally encouraged to ask their students annually how they could better support them.
If a relationship works well, it can be life-changing for the student and deeply rewarding for the supervisor.
Advice for putting your dissertation in the proper perspective (essay)
Supervising PhDs, I have been directed along paths that I would not have discovered otherwise There is no doubt in my mind that the best part of being an academic over the years has been supervising PhD students. The degree was not awarded. Yet years later I discovered evidence that the viva had been deliberately biased.
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How should universities handle breakdowns in PhD student-supervisor relationships? By Jack Grove. Reader's comments 9 1 Submitted by Zmith on June 1, - am. I would prefer to remain anonymous. I was thirty when I was awarded my PhD this was before time constraints were imposed after seven years of hard and dedicated work. My supervisor told me I was too old to apply for university posts.
Phd dissertation defense
He was wrong; but I believed him, and so I didn't. Now sixty, I look back on a ruined and wasted life. Victor Frankenstein on June 3, - am. A general rule to introduction is this:. Bekijk uw resultaten dissertation bij teoma. Plan van zakenman heeft enorme impact op jouw inkomsten!
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