Research Student Supervision
The key to a fulfilling PhD experience lies in quality supervision, which is tailored to individual needs and circumstances. Trinity College Dublin is committed to providing effective supervision for all PhD students. The nature of supervision can vary, with some students having multiple supervisors or a thesis committee, while meeting frequencies and feedback levels may also differ. The important factor is finding a model that works for both the student and supervisor, leading to a successful thesis and an enriching PhD journey.
For students who enrolled after September 2019, a thesis committee is established withing six months of registration. The thesis committee supports the student-supervisor relationship and enhances the overall quality and rigour of the supervision process. It supports the academic progress of the student and provides guidance on their development as PhD researchers.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to good supervision, it is important to receive effective guidance. If the supervision is inadequate or a breakdown occurs in the supervisory relationship, it is essential to address the issue promptly by communicating with thesis committee members, the Director of Teaching and Learning (Postgraduate) in your School, or, in exceptional cases, the Dean of Graduate Studies.
Supervisor – Research Student Agreement
The Supervisor / Research Student Agreement has been developed to serve as a foundation for a positive and productive relationship between the supervisor and their student. It outlines the expectations for both parties and promotes a shared understanding of goals and milestones on the student journey. The agreement encourages open and transparent communication between the supervisor and the PhD student and it creates a platform for discussing concerns and adressing issues.
The benefits from the use of Supervisor / Research Student Agreement include:
- Increased clarity around the roles and responsibilities of both parties in the supervisory relationship.
- Improved management of mutual expectations of doctoral researchers and supervisors.
- Enhanced transparency and accountability throughout the different stages of student journey.
What the Agreement is?
- A menu of possible discussion points reflecting roles and responsibilities in four key areas: Academic Development, Managing our Relationship, Professional Development and Supporting Wellbeing & Health.
- A conversational starting point to support students and supervisors to reflect on how they will work together.
- A ‘living document’ that should be adapted, modified, revised or extended to best suit the specific supervisor and student and the domain and stage of research.
- An explicit statement of what each partner in the agreement commits to as a reasonable expectation of each other.
- A potential tool for self-reflection: a trigger to focus attention on each person’s often implicit expectations of themselves and of others.
- A reminder that good supervision relationships need nurturing.
What the Agreement is not?
- A legally binding agreement
- A prescriptive set of rules and regulations
- A box-ticking protocol
- A perfect document/tool
- A solution for all the challenges that might be encountered.
How should the Agreement be used?
The Agreement should be discussed and jointly completed by a student and the supervisor and may be adapted, if required, to suit the requirements of the research project, the student and supervisor(s).
- As a student, you should review the agreement with your supervisor and discuss how you can make it work for each other.
- Within 8 weeks of registering, you should set aside a specific time slot to go through the Agreement with your supervisor(s), identify the elements that are relevant, discuss and agree relevant points and compile the summary section.
- You should disagree, negotiate, explain, or add elements before you sign the agreement.
- As a living document, the Agreement can be reviewed at any point in the supervision relationship and amended as needed.
- At a minimum, you should discuss the Agreement again at the start of each academic year, but it may be useful to review it more regularly in the early stages of your PhD.
Guidelines and Resources