Medical Biophysics Graduate Student Association

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Make the most of your time with your supervisor

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Hello Graduate Student,

If you are writing a thesis, you may think of this process as a road stretched out in front of you composed of unexpected turns, climbs, or crossroads, as well as discoveries, possibilities, and cornerstones. As you think of this journey, I also encourage you to imagine the road composed of many pit stops, as these represent one of the most important steps of the thesis process: meetings with your supervisor. Regular meetings with your thesis supervisor represent an essential element of the research and writing process because, in order for your supervisor to be an effective guide for you along your journey, he/she must be consistently updated on where you’ve been in this process, where you are now, and where you are headed next. Below are suggestions for ensuring that you make the most of your meetings with your supervisor.

“Use your time with your supervisor wisely” from Office of the Ombudsperson, http://www.uwo.ca/ombuds/graduate/relations-supervisor.html, and Faculty of Graduate and PostdoctoralStudies, http://www.grad.vottawa.ca

  • Plan to meet with your supervisor regularly whether or not you have any finished work to show him or her.
  • Prepare in advance for meetings by making notes of the issues you would like to discuss. Prioritize these issues from most important to least important in case you end up having less time with your supervisor than you anticipated. Making notes ahead of time also allows you to be more focused during the meeting; you are less likely to forget to ask important questions regarding your research/progress.
  • Meetings will be most productive when you accept responsibility for "running the meeting”. Your role is to raise the issues and questions while the supervisor's role is to respond.

If it is a major meeting, draw up and deliver to the supervisor an agenda beforehand, and based on this agenda, prepare a brief report on what was discussed and decided after the meeting. A typical agenda might include:

  • a summary of the purpose of the meeting
  • a review of what was discussed at the previous meeting and what has been accomplished to date
  • a discussion and clarification of the current topics (ideas and issues), and
  • next steps as a result of this discussion, possibly including a date for the next meeting.
  • If your supervisor is facing a work crisis at the time of your meeting, offer to reschedule the meeting, shorten it, or handle the matter over email (if appropriate). Be flexible, but remain committed to getting what you need in a timely manner.
  • If you have to cancel a meeting unexpectedly make sure your message reaches your professor. Don't rely solely on email, since many people do not check their messages every day.

It is important to be productive at these major meetings, but it is also crucial to just keep in touch with your supervisor. If you have not met with your supervisor for a month or so, send an e-mail or drop by your supervisor’s office to let him or her know how you are doing.

(via www.sdc.uwo.ca/learning/ at GRADUpdATE@uwo.ca)