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The University of Southampton
Doctoral College

Supervision Arrangements

Your Supervisory Team

Every student is allocated to a supervisory team. The supervisory team shall consist of at least two members of staff, one of whom will be the ‘main supervisor’. Supervisory teams are common and arise to achieve academic coverage in supervision for a project that spans the research interests of several staff. The main supervisor will have main responsibility for the supervision of the design and progress of the candidate’s research project and for providing academic advice to the candidate. The supervisory team is typically decided before a student starts their PhD and together its members will be able to advise students on different aspects of the PhD. Supervisory teams can be made up from members of staff from within Psychology or external to it. If supervision is provided across departments, schools, or faculties (academic units), one academic unit will be identified as the primary unit, which therefore defines the primary supervisor. The financial implications of cross- academic unit supervision must be clarified and agreed in writing by the finance managers in both units concerned, before any such joint supervision arrangements can be finalised.

The amount of supervision varies according to type of activity, and stage of study. However, the following rules of thumb apply: Academic research students will typically meet with their primary supervisor weekly during year 1 and fortnightly thereafter. In addition, students working at a distance may receive supervision through telephone contact, through verbal or written feedback, and via email.

The supervisory team will guide the development of students through the PhD process. They will not be there to do the work for them. As such, students are expected to keep up to date with required progress milestones, submit reports on time, ensure reports are of a suitable quality, and be proactive regarding their postgraduate needs and opportunities. To ensure that you get the most from your supervisory relationship, work to outline meeting-agendas, attend meetings, log discussions, and respond to requests. Students should make a habit of keeping a log of meetings to which they can refer back and check progress. Please note that if for any reason your primary supervisor is away from the University for a prolonged period of time the arrangements will normally be made to ensure continuity of contact with your primary supervisor, whilst having an alternative contact for day-to-day matters.


Change of Supervisor(s)

In the event that a supervisor leaves the university, a new supervisor will be sought either from the existing supervisory team or from the academic staff with related research interests. The original supervisor may still play an advisory role though cannot serve as an examiner.

Student requests for change of supervisors may be accommodated where there is an alternative member of staff willing and able to take over supervisory responsibility. This is an unusual step though, and every effort should be taken to resolve any academic or personal issues that may arise within existing supervisory teams.


Project Specification

The project that is specified must be within the resources of both the School of Psychology and the supervisor’s own research group. ‘Resources’ here means both academic and financial. If major equipment is needed, this must be resourced through School of Psychology provision or grant specification.

The exact title of the project is less relevant during the early stages of a PhD. All research work is progressive, and the title of the final thesis may be some way from the initial title as listed on the offer of a studentship. It would be quite a natural progression, therefore, for supervisors to be prescriptive in directing study during the first year of a PhD, but for the student to take increasingly more responsibility for research direction as they progress.


Your Responsibilities

The aim of the research training programme is to provide a generic training in the methods related to research design, measurement, and data analysis in psychological research. It will help in the development of skills including:

  • use of computers for data analysis and information management,
  • the use of bibliographic sources (both paper and electronic),
  • the production of research reports modelled on peer-reviewed journal papers, and
  • the presentation of research findings and their defence in academic interchanges. 

The programme also provides grounding in principles that govern the ethical conduct of research. The research training will complement the supervisory process in developing an ability to critically evaluate primary research material. 

The contact with your supervisor(s) is seen as an integral part of the research methods training. This will foster specific expertise in the design and methods of your thesis topic. The overall aim of the training programme is therefore to promote your competence as a researcher in psychological science with the ability to apply a range of research methodology skills to a variety of topics beyond those of the PhD.

The ultimate responsibility for the thesis lies with you and it is therefore essential that you participates fully in planning the research project, considering advice, and discuss the work with the main supervisor or supervisory team. Particular responsibilities of the student include:

  • Showing commitment to the research project and programme of studies
  • Discussing with one or more members of the supervisory team the type of guidance and commitment found to be most helpful, and agreeing and adhering to a schedule of meetings
  • Agreeing with one or more members of the supervisory team the amount of time to be devoted to the research and the timing and duration of any holiday periods
  • Analysing, with assistance from one or more members of the supervisory team, any initial or ongoing training needs with respect to research and generic/transferable skills, and participating in appropriate training activities as advised by one or more members of the supervisory team in order to meet these needs.
  • Maintaining the progress of work in accordance with the agreed research plan
  • Providing regular statements on progress to the School of Psychology
  • Taking the initiative in raising problems or difficulties, however trivial they seem.
  • Attending conferences and seminars to present work, and preparing work for publication as guided by the supervisory team
  • Being aware of the diverse cultural social and educational backgrounds of fellow students and recognising the real and potential benefits brought to the learning experience.
  • Deciding when the thesis is to be submitted, after taking due account of advice from one or more members of the supervisory team as appropriate.

In particular, you should also be aware of the following:


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