Engaging with and completing the final year research project is the student’s responsibility. It is a collaboration between the student and the supervisor, with supervisors providing occasional, but important input in the form of advice and correction. Supervision does not mean intensive coaching (even if supervisors may occasionally provide extra help for students experiencing difficulties). Supervisors will guide, but students must do the research.
Students should meet their supervisor on a regular basis. How often this is will vary depending on the type of project and ability of the student. As general rule, students should expect a formal meeting with their supervisor for 1 hour every two weeks. At the discretion of the supervisor this might be more frequent for a shorter period of time. Also, if you are performing similar research to another student or supervisor’s research group you might be invited to attend group meetings. Students performing laboratory-based projects might engage with their supervisor or a member of their laboratory more frequently, as they will need to be taught a particular technique. Students should expect replies to email enquiries within 48 hours, although a complete answer to complex questions may take longer. Although many supervisors will be pro-active in arranging meetings, it is ultimately the students’ responsibility to arrange meetings to discuss their research. In this regard, it might be beneficial to the supervisor and student to set meetings for the whole term.
Students cannot expect that a supervisor is able to provide immediate and substantial assistance within a few days of a deadline: supervisors have multiple students and many other duties. It is the students’ responsibility to be fully aware of any deadlines and manage their time and progress so that they do not need such assistance at the last minute. Supervisors are not available for meetings outside of normal office hours and certainly not at weekends.
People are different and supervisors have different styles of supervision. For example, some supervisors tend to be more hands-on, scrutinizing the details of students’ work and progress, whereas others tend to be more hands-off and let students get on with things by themselves. There is no consensus about which style is pedagogically best. Both styles are liable to have advantages and disadvantages.
Students with a more hands-on supervisor may receive more corrective feedback. However, this may lead to the student becoming less independent. In contrast, a less hands-on supervisory style may help students to learn how to become independent researchers, but students will be expected to scrutinize their own work. A supervisors’ style will also differ in other ways e.g., meetings will be more or less formal depending on the supervisor. This is normal and students also have different learning and research styles as well.
The nature (and progression) of the project, and the ability and attitude of the student, will lead supervisors to adjust their supervisory style. In general, supervisors appreciate students who work hard and who come to meetings prepared to talk about their research in an organised way.
Students will not be penalized for seeking legitimate assistance from their supervisor e.g., how to perform a complex biological reaction. However, a supervisor cannot be expected to act in a remedial role, such as teaching a student how to do tasks they have covered in previous years or other parts of the module e.g., like carrying out a simple statistical test such as a t-test.
It is important that you plan appropriately when meeting with your supervisor to make sure that you make the best of the time.
You should prepare an agenda for your meeting, this may include:
The kinds of things that your supervisor can advise on: