Over the next few weeks our student project assistants will be contributing some shorter, individual posts reflecting on some key things they have learned through the process of undertaking their final year project. In the first of this ‘mini series’, Roxanne shares her top tips for working effectively with your supervisor:

As a final year student approaching the last few months before the end of my degree, there are some things I have learnt along the way. Here are some tips that I would give to anyone working with their supervisor whilst writing their third-year dissertation (my course and final project are both essay-based so these tips may vary slightly if you’re doing an exam or project based course):

  1. Get a meeting in early: once you’ve been assigned your supervisor it’s a good idea to have a meeting with them as early as possible – even if this is only on zoom and you have no ideas for your dissertation yet. An early meeting gets you on their radar and means your  relationship with them has time to develop throughout third year
  2. Try and meet face-to-face: although this may not always be feasible if they work off campus, where possible, I would always recommend meeting in person. Seeing each other face-to-face makes communicating your ideas and asking them to elaborate on feedback much easier which allows for better discussion overall. Plus, being able to properly put a face to a name will likely make your supervisor more invested and care more about your journey, progress and end result. Otherwise, its quite easy to fall through the cracks, especially if your supervisor is helping lots of other students at the same time.
  3. Come to your meeting prepared: because time with your supervisor is limited, I would always recommend going to your meeting with a number of questions or topics ready to discuss so that you make the best use of both of your time. If not, it’s often the case that you leave the meeting and then later remember something that you wish you’d brought up.
  4. Speak from one adult to another: at this point in your degree, you’re sort of expected to have a thorough understanding of your course and have your own interests/perspective. Although your supervisor is of course more qualified and experienced than you, you should still be confident in your own ideas and ability. At the end of the day, you’re both adults and -especially in third year – your opinion and academic perspective is more valid than ever before so is worth being heard.
  5. Pinch of salt: on this note, it’s also important to remember that, when all is said and done, your dissertation is your own piece of work. If your supervisor disagrees with an element of your project or suggests an alternative they think would be better, this is still only their opinion. So, if you’re confident in your own ideas, their perspective shouldn’t necessarily stop you from pursuing it.
  6. Know their expertise: its always useful to know what your supervisor specializes in so you know where their strengths lie and what they can help you best with. Plus, make use of them as much as possible whilst you still can. If you have a draft deadline after which they can no longer read any of your written work, try and give them something to read at least once or twice before the deadline, if permitted, so you can get as much helpful feedback as possible
  7. Get to know their open doors: supervisors are likely very busy helping other students, teaching, or undertaking their own research. This means they may not always respond to your email enquiries straight away. If you need some advice quickly, it’s a good idea to try and meet them in their open doors so you don’t need to wait on an email reply.
  8. Appreciate their time: from this, it’s also important to give them time to respond – ask for their help a week or two before a deadline rather than 24 hours before. That way you’re much more likely to get a helpful response back.