Getting the Most Out of Your Doctorate

Cover of Getting the Most Out of Your Doctorate

The Importance of Supervision, Networking, and Becoming a Global Academic

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Synopsis

Table of contents

(11 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xvii
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Part I Preparation

Abstract

There are numerous existing resources which claim to discuss the most important factors a potential PhD student should consider when looking for a possible supervisor. Commonly discussed topics include the supervisors’ record and approach, but there is much more to finding a reciprocal and beneficial relationship. This chapter will address some of these less discussed factors to look for when selecting a supervisor, including sense of humor. This chapter will help the hopeful PhD student maneuver the uncomfortable − and often overwhelming − waters of selecting a supervisor by pointing out the questions students forget to ask, the character traits they don’t think to consider, and examples of supervision selection gone wrong. It starts with the often-confusing process of knowing where to start looking, then highlights five frequently ignored factors that deserve more consideration, and finishes with warning signs to look for that mark supervisors to avoid.

Abstract

If we were to liken the long, intense doctoral journey to a battle, a strategy for winning can start from understanding well and then setting the right expectations about modern supervision. We need to ask whether doctoral learners’ expectations are aligned with their supervisors’ expectations. With the wide and evolving roles of PhD supervisors, we focus only on three key areas: (1) academic conventions, (2) psychological well-being, and (3) career development. Using a hypothetical scenario for each area, we compare doctoral learners’ perspectives with their supervisors’, which highlights the need for greater understanding and connectivity between both parties. This leads to our discussion on how appreciating these areas has practical implications for doctoral learners and supervisors. Drawing mainly on UK-based examples, we raise useful ideas that can help promote a holistic doctoral journey and increase doctoral learners’ chances of winning the metaphorical “doctoral battle.”

Abstract

The “fit” between supervisor and student is difficult to predict but is essential to success in graduate school. Many students will experience disagreements or disappointment in their supervisory relationship at some point, but these issues are rarely discussed openly before starting a program. As a graduate student, you may find that your interests diverge from your advisor’s expertise, your advisor may leave for another institution, or perhaps you are interested in a nonacademic job (gasp) and your advisor can no longer “productively” support you. The good news is that you are not an island! There are several other individuals and groups that can support your graduate school endeavors if the advisor − advisee relationship does not work as planned. In this chapter, we outline several potential problems but also provide steps you can take to address these challenges and secure other sources of support.

This chapter offers practical steps to guide you through the process of determining if support from another faculty member or other advocate is necessary, and how to garner support from other students and friends. Concrete advice and considerations for meeting with your advisor or committee members to discuss the areas that need further guidance and develop a set expectations and pinpoint areas for improvement are provided. A discussion on additional steps if the meeting fails to alter progress is also included in the chapter, including how to navigate changing advisors or bring on additional co-advisors. This narrative is discussed through the lens of the American University system; however, the steps included in this chapter could be readily applied to a wide range of potential challenges that can exist anywhere. These are problems that may require modifications to supervision, including changing research topics or methodology, differences in expectations and personality traits, and managing projects when supervisors change institutions.

Part II Mediating

Abstract

Is co-supervision (i.e., two or more supervisors) a blessing or a torture? While co-supervision enables doctoral students to embrace a greater breadth of expertise, studying under the supervision of two or more supervisors can also be frustrating, especially when they have different requirements and expectations. Co-supervision is sometimes like living on the edge of two “systems” of theories and paradigms. It is important for doctoral students to be academically, emotionally, and interpersonally prepared to maximize the value of co-supervision, which often requires special management skills and techniques. Based on the experiences and stories of doctoral students from Hong Kong, this chapter will provide practical tips to navigate co-supervision.

“I just finished my meeting with one supervisor and need to prepare for the other now!”

“I just finished my meeting with one supervisor and need to prepare for the other now!”

“I can learn different things from each supervisor. It is very helpful.”

“I can learn different things from each supervisor. It is very helpful.”

“I am quite confused! My supervisors have totally different stands on this issue.”

“I am quite confused! My supervisors have totally different stands on this issue.”

Does any of the comments ring a bell with you? If you studied or are studying for a doctoral degree in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, or Hong Kong, you are likely to find yourself in similar situations. With the development of distributed supervisory practice in higher education and the growing number of doctoral candidates, more and more doctoral students are likely to be supervised by two or more academics, that is, co-supervision.

Abstract

Uncertainty, overwhelmed, doubtful, anxious … and so the list of emotions of the doctoral candidate goes on. Yet, we can move from not just surviving emotional and cognitive challenges to thriving and embracing the challenges through the creation of a support network. While family and friends might be one supportive network, they often fail to understand the lived experience of doctoral research, so it is critical to establish a professional network early in the candidature. This may form naturally if you are researching within a laboratory setting, but for many doctoral candidates engaged in social science research, finding a place in a professional network may not be straightforward. In this chapter, co-written by doctoral students and their supervisor, the processes and power of creating a network are shared and explored in the hope of supporting others to achieve the same. The chapter presents ideas for creating or finding a place in a network but more importantly for recognizing the power of the network to ensure successful outcomes beyond the completion of the thesis. While completion of the thesis is a primary aim of the doctoral candidature, we argue the quality of the candidature experience can shape the future of the graduate and subsequently the next generation of academics.

Abstract

Supervisors and other academic staff can provide PhD students with invaluable professional support and opportunities for advancing their careers. This stems from the strong academic and networking provisions often offered to PhD students by nature of the supervisory mentorship. Although this professional relationship is highly beneficial in itself, many PhD students also wish to develop social and more personal friendships with their supervisors, in addition to academic connections. In this way, PhD students may seek a space to comfortably share their personal lives, identities, and experiences with supervisors and develop a working and personal relationship that extends beyond their doctoral program.

In order to better support how and why PhD students build social and personal relationships with their supervisors, this chapter draws upon evidence from an international collaboration across three institutions in the United Kingdom and China related to doctoral students’ social transition experiences. Building on our experience using an innovative mixed method combination of social network analysis, longitudinal diaries, blogs, and in-depth interviews, we explore the complex, dynamic, and, at times, turbulent social relationships between PhD students and supervisors. Specifically, this chapter provides tips for PhD students to manage and maintain social relationships with their supervisors in order to build lasting connections. This includes advice for establishing personal acquaintanceships between students and supervisors and bridging the gap from supervisor to colleague to friend. Altogether, readers will consider actionable steps for developing socially meaningful and sincere relationships with supervisors or other mentors.

Part III Understanding Your Place

Abstract

Not being international is not an option anymore for students and academics. The labor market is global, demands are global, and research has always been international in nature. Various studies in recent years have also shown that if you want to be successful – inside or outside of academia – you need to be internationally minded. If you think you are not international enough yet, what can you do? In this chapter I introduce five ingredients of your recipe for international success: (1) mobility, (2) choosing an international co-supervisor, (3) referencing international literature, (4) participating in international events, and (5) considering international topics or methodologies.

Abstract

Students are drawn to doctorates for both the intellectual journey and the aspirational destination. However, many contemporary doctoral students and graduates are feeling like battlers, in that victory does not assure a career. In this context, the weapons of choice are a clear vision, identity, and strategic choices. The aim of this chapter is to inform students, their supervisors, and university executive leaders how to achieve heightened graduate employability. As such, it has been written for four audiences: (1) PhD students, who want academic careers, and (2) those who want careers beyond universities; (3) PhD supervisors; and (4) university executive leaders. The key takeaways are practical recommendations for each of these four groups. The content is informed by an Australian national research study into postgraduate student experience, which included 319 postgraduate students as research participants. The first chapter author was one of two principal researchers leading the study, and the second chapter author was the project manager and researcher. The authors have added their reflections and personal experiences as supervisor and PhD student respectively.

Abstract

In this final chapter, the major findings and themes from the book are presented. Linking the discussion of the book to the changing context of doctoral education and training, the chapter will ask the readers to reflect on how doctoral education may change for them and provoke them to reflect if they are ready for such changes. Themes from the book, including that doctoral education is a shared responsibility, that students must take advantage of opportunities that come their way and make them when they don’t and that research is a social activity will be further teased apart. Through this conclusion, the chapter will encourage students to be independent within their doctoral education, while seeking out and retaining important networks that will connect them with their community and support their well-being.

Index

Pages 141-147
Content available
Cover of Getting the Most Out of Your Doctorate
DOI
10.1108/9781787699052
Publication date
2019-04-24
Book series
Surviving and Thriving in Academia
Editor
Series copyright holder
Editors
ISBN
978-1-78769-908-3
eISBN
978-1-78769-905-2