Podcasts

Podcast – Managing & fostering good relations with PhD supervisors

Hosted by Dr Chris Hardy

Reading Time: 26 minutes

Working life is inherently relational and in the case of doing a PhD, a specific and unique relation is that with your mentor or supervisor. Mutually nurturing this relationship, is key to success, or is it?

In this weeks podcast, our panel explore how they have worked with, and managed their relationships with supervisors. How this develops over time, how you ensure your research is your own and their tips for success.

This weeks host is Chris Hardy a Clinical neuroscience and Postdoc from University College London and the panellists are Jacki Stansfield a PhD working also at UCL, Robyn Dowlen, PhD Student at The University of Manchester and Lisa Thorpe a PhD Student, University of Chester.

(Needless to say, they all have perfect relationships with their supervisors)


Click here to read a full transcript of this podcast

Voice Over:

Welcome to the Dementia Researcher Podcast brought to you by dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk. A network for early career researchers.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Hello, my name is Chris Hardy and welcome to our podcast recording for the NIHR Dementia Researcher website. This week we will be looking at managing and fostering good relations with PhD supervisors. And I’m joined today by Jacki Stansfield, Robyn Dowlen and Lisa Thorpe. So welcome to you all. Thank you so much for coming.

Dr Chris Hardy:

And first up, Jacki is a PhD student in the Valuing Active Life in Dementia or VALID Program at UCL, and the Deputy Trial Manager for the Research into Antipsychotic Discontinuation and Reduction or RADAR study for the Northeast London NHS Foundation Trust. So Jacki, those are two excellent acronyms, I’m very impressed with that. And can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your research please?

Jacki Stansfield:

Yeah, so my part-time PhD is with UCL and what I’m looking at is sense of competence in family caregivers of people living with dementia. So I’m planning to update the existing theoretical models sense of competence and I’m using a positive psychology approach. So, that’s all really exciting, but whilst I’m doing that and working on the RADAR study, which is looking at a flexible reduction or discontinuation of anti-psychotics in people with schizophrenia.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Great. So you’re very welcome, thank you.

Jacki Stansfield:

Thanks.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Next we have Robyn Dowlen who is a PhD student at the University of Manchester. And Robyn, I understand that your PhD involves working directly with people with dementia as they listen to music. So can you tell us more about your projects and your research?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah, of course. So my research is an ESRC-funded case studentship, which means that I work with both academics and industry experts. So I work with an orchestra based in Manchester, called Manchester Camerata, and they have a music program for people with dementia called, Music in Mind. And what I’ve been doing as part of my PhD is doing an in depth qualitative work alongside one community-based Music in Mind program in order to understand the in-the-moment experiences of people with dementia when they take part in these activities.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, great. That sounds like really important work and you’re welcome here. And finally we have Lisa Thorpe who is a PhD student at the University of Chester. And Lisa, I think your PhD involves music as well, is that right?

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

It does and so my PhD involves looking at implicit memory and more importantly, looking at the benefits of implicit memory in older adults. And I’m also looking at this within musicians and non-musicians to see whether musicians have a better implicit memory, and hopefully we can move this on to work with people with dementia and to see whether we can use implicit memory as a tool for diagnosing dementia earlier than we can do with explicit memory.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Great. And that sounds really important as well. So it’s lovely to meet all of you and I think we’re going to have some really interesting discussions over the next 30 minutes or so. I should say that I’m less important than all of you because I’m a research associate and teaching fellow based in the Dementia Research Centre at UCL. So if any of our listeners would like to join in the conversation with a podcast, you can use the #ECRdementia. You can follow us on Twitter @dem_researcher and you can find lots of content for early career researchers on our website, which is dementiaresearcher.nihr.ac.uk.

Dr Chris Hardy:

So let’s get started. So the idea behind this episode is that the supervisor-supervisee relationship is incredibly important and good relationships can lead to successful PhDs and lifelong working collaborations. But bad relationships can make it extremely difficult to get your PhD, and balancing things so that your PhD project remains yours and not your supervisor’s can be really hard as well. So Jacki, I’ll come to you first. How do you find working with your supervisor and is that relationship working for you at the moment?

Jacki Stansfield:

It’s a very different working relationship to work with a PhD supervisor I think, because you’re trying to manage someone who’s a lot more senior than yourself. But I’m now, what, four years into my PhD and I’m finding it a lot easier. And I think it’s, as you learn a little bit more about how to manage that relationship, it makes it a lot easier and for me it’s working quite well. So my supervisor’s actually based all the way in Nottingham, so we figured out a way in which we can still meet for supervision even though he’s quite far away from where I am.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right. And how do you manage that distance?

Jacki Stansfield:

We generally tie it in with other meetings, so if he has a meeting here at UCL, we’ll try and meet or phone or Skype is really very useful. And if I can go to Nottingham then I will and we can book in a longer session.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, thank you. And Robyn, how about you? Same question to you.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

So I actually have five supervisors-

Dr Chris Hardy:

All right, okay.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… so everyone always recoils in horror when I say I’ve got five supervisors. And so it’s because I’ve got the academic supervisors and the supervisors from Manchester Camerata as well.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

But yeah, with me it’s I think very much like Jacki had said about, there’s a point in the PhD where you start to sort of take the lead and it kind of… I was drawn a diagram right at the beginning of my PhD where it says, “This is the point at which you will take over.” And that’s something that I’ve definitely, I feel a lot more… Yeah, I’m the expert in this field by this point-

Dr Chris Hardy:

Great.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… and so supervisions have become a lot easier recently.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, that sounds really positive.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

And so, what was that point that you identified?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

I think it was probably because I’ve had to sit with my data, and because it’s video data, I can’t bring the 42 hours of video data that I have collected into supervisions. So it’s very much…

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, this is on you.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… “This is what my interpretation of the data.” I can’t bring it to show everyone.

Dr Chris Hardy:

And is yours a traditional three-year PhD?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. And so where within the three years did that point come?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

I would say it’s probably the start of my final year probably-

Dr Chris Hardy:

Mm-hmm (affirmative), okay.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… because there was still a lot of questions that I had during the research process itself. So, “How can I be the best researcher that I can in this setting?” Because it’s a training program at the end of the day, I needed the advice but now I feel like I can own supervision and it’s… yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

And so you had that autonomy by the end of your second year and you’re ready to kind of take the lead with the project itself.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah definitely,

Dr Chris Hardy:

Fantastic. And so Lisa, same question to you.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

So I only have two supervisors, so don’t quite have the extent of them…

Dr Chris Hardy:

Boring.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

But I have a very similar experience where you start supervision and they’re very much the expert in the field, and then as you go along you kind of like… They don’t get any worse, but you notice yourself growing on a par a bit and then all of a sudden it’s a tipping point where you’re going to supervision meetings and like, “Right, I found this and I’m doing this.” And they’re like, “Oh, I’ve not seen that before. Good” And you think, “Oh, yes.” And I think it’s a very much you’re going on an equal balance [crosstalk 00:00:07:04].

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

You get to a point where it’s very much of an equal balance relationship rather than they’re the superior and you’re less.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right, which is almost how it is to start with when you know [crosstalk 00:07:17], yes.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Yes, it’s very much because you go in with… When you start, you go in with that student-lecturer relationship and then as it kind of goes on, you lose that student-lecturer relationship and it becomes less of a… You become less of a student. I don’t think that’s… yeah

Jacki Stansfield:

It’s more of a kind of equal working relationship then, isn’t it?

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Yeah.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah. That’s a good point. And so with your two supervisors, do you have one who’s your primary and one is a secondary or is it kind of [crosstalk 00:07:44].

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

So essentially what we call the good and the bad.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Oh okay.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

So I have the good one that I see on a weekly basis that marks everything. And then essentially the one that keeps me on track, the one that makes sure that I’m hitting all the targets and that I’m not going too far off the line. And so I’ve one that I see pretty much every week and one that I see a few times a year-

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

… that we have group meetings a few times a year.

Dr Chris Hardy:

But it’s still useful to have that input from-

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Oh yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

… from them.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

And by bad I don’t mean that they’re bad people just to clarify that. I just mean that they’re the one that keeps me on the straight and narrow.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right, it does.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Keeps me in target.

Dr Chris Hardy:

That sounds good. So Robyn with your five supervisors? Surely they can’t all have equal inputs into your project or is it really [inaudible 00:08:28].

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

No, I have sort of a main academics supervisor and then everyone else. So I do get feedback from everyone in the team, which can be quite daunting when you open the document with five people’s opinions on your work, but I think there’s expectations from me with the feedback that I want to get, so I normally ask questions and some of the questions will be directed at particular supervisors because it’s a multidisciplinary supervision team.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Not everyone can… The people from Manchester Camerata don’t necessarily know as much about the research methods, whereas they are the experts of the Music in Mind program. They’ve been running it since 2012. So it’s great to have supervisors that bounce off each other. But yeah, they know how much feedback to give me because otherwise it would be overwhelming I think.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. That sounds good.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah. And Jacki, how about you? You’ve got one main supervisor from Nottingham.

Jacki Stansfield:

Yeah, and then I have a second who I work with. So we meet quite regularly and I also have a supervisor who lives in the Netherlands, so we meet less regularly but do speak over the phone. And they all have different roles within my PhD from quite different angles, but that makes it really useful.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. That’s good. And Robyn, so the relationship you have with your supervisors, how does that compare to other working relationships you’ve had previously? Is it different? Is it similar?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

I think it’s definitely, there are similarities with other sort of jobs I’ve had. So I did a placement year at the University of Birmingham and had a similar relationship with the placement supervisor there in terms of feedback on work, feedback on my performance, stuff like that. But I think the supervisor-supervisee relationship is sort of a step up from that. I think my supervisors especially, they want me to do the very best I can and so they know what potential I have and so sometimes it might seem like they’re being nitpicky or asking something that will take me a long time to do, but it’s only because they-

Dr Chris Hardy:

They have your best interest.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

They want… Yeah, and they want that thesis to be the best possible thing I could, yeah, do.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah. Okay. It’s really nice you can reflect on that and understand their position, understand that they’re trying to get the best out of you.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah, that’s really positive.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

They’re your biggest supporters and your biggest critics rolled in one, [Crosstalk 00:00:10:58].

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

That’s so true.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah. And say Lisa is that the same for you with the working relationships being slightly different in terms of PhD supervision than in your other working relationships previously?

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Yes. I think it’s because we know that jobs, supervisors and management’s very much of a senior role, and you spend probably more working time with them where with a supervisor it’s more one to one time that you spend and it’s very much they know your research just as much as you do. They’re on that journey with you and then like I said, they’re there to support you as well as giving you as much feedback and as much help as they possibly can to guide you to do your very best.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

That is support your weaknesses as well as being there to be there when you’re at your best as well. So I think it’s, I have a good relationship with my-

Dr Chris Hardy:

That’s great.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

… supervisors. Like when the feedback, she gives loads of feedback and at first it’s incredibly daunting, but it’s the amount of feedback that I need, and I think it’s just they are there to get the best out of you.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah. But it’s good that you have that relationship because for some PhD students it might be too daunting or too overwhelming to receive page after page of feedback and so it’s good that your supervisors have that… you have that understanding with one another that that is appropriate for you, whereas it may not be for somebody else I guess.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Yeah, it’s good. She always does say on the emails like, “Sorry for the amount of feedback,” but I think it’s just an expectance now then I’m going to hand something in and it’s going to come back with loads of feedback and that’s good really. If I was handing things in and it wasn’t coming back, then I’d worry.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yes, you did, but presumably over time as the PhD goes on and you’ll get less and less feedback.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Let’s hope so, yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

And Jacki how about you because you’ve got the distance component with your supervisors to contend with. So how do those relationships with your supervisors compare to other working relationships previously?

Jacki Stansfield:

Similar to what these guys have said in that you’re working towards a common goal, but for me up until recently, my day-to-day working life was on the trial that my PhD was on. And so I think the most important thing in that was actually to separate out our working relationship from our PhD supervisor-relationship and in meetings, make sure that we had a clear agenda so it didn’t get mixed up and we didn’t go off topic. And I think that was something that has really helped to define the different relationships with the same people is to just make sure everyone is clear in each meeting what’s going to be discussed.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. Yeah, and I think that’s an issue for a lot of people. You start as RAs research assistants and then go onto TPs which is very common and trying to navigate those potentially blurred boundaries between what is work and what is PhD is very difficult.

Jacki Stansfield:

It can be quite tricky. And also having the confidence to say to your supervisors, “Actually, can we talk about that later? Because for now this is what we need to discuss.” And I think you learn that as you go forward in your PhD.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right. So I imagine to start with that might not be something that you feel comfortable saying but as you developed that relationship we’ve talked about, then that becomes more possible.

Jacki Stansfield:

Yeah, definitely. You grow in confidence.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah. I remember when I started my PhD, I almost felt guilty every time I had to go and talk to my supervisor. I felt like I was bothering my primary supervisor, but over time I’m still working with my PhD supervisors postdoc, and it’s something I really value now and I really enjoy those conversations we have. So I think as you’ve all said, that the trajectory and the relationship just change over time.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. So Lisa, I’ll come to you. What lessons have you learned in your PhD so far and is there anything you’d do differently if you started again?

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to not worry about making mistakes or not worrying about not understanding something straight away. Because I think at the start you go in and you don’t know everything and there’s going to be things that you’ve never come across and you don’t understand, and when you first come across that you really think that you’re not good enough to carry on doing that PhD.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

And I think it is just having the confidence to carry on learning without make yourself feel that… And it’s again coming back to supervisors, it’s utilizing your supervisor for that. So going into meetings and being like, “I don’t quite understand this. Can you go through it with me or can you explain it?” And I think that’s the one thing you’ve got to learn, like don’t expect too much of yourself.

Jacki Stansfield:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah, that’s a really good point. So having the confidence to admit when you’re not quite sure about something or you think he might be wrong. And having that guidance, which is what after all your supervisors are there to do. And that’s a really good point. And Robyn, same question for you. What would you do differently if you would start again?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

I think if I was to start again, having now gone through the process of feedback and everything, so many times it’s… Right at the beginning I used to work on stuff so that it was perfect before sending a draft. So I had to be completely happy with something before I would even send anything. Whereas now I’m very much, even if it’s not complete, if I’ve set myself a deadline of I’m going to send work by this date, I’m going to send that work because I think it’s better to get the feedback because I know that I will get a lot of feedback. So no matter what it is that I submit as a first draft, I’m going to have to do a lot of work to… So I set myself a deadline and give that deadline to my supervisors, so they’re expecting the work to drop in their inbox on that day.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

And so yeah. And also not putting too much pressure on yourself. Like at the end of the day, there’s more to life than your PhD. And it might not seem like it at some point, like sometimes it seems like the be-all and end-all, but I think that’s something that sometimes a PhD has a tendency to take over for me and I’ve got to learn that maybe when I go through the door after coming back from the office, that’s time to put my computer away and have some me time.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Perhaps so, I think Jackie and Lisa were both shaking their heads when you said, there’s more to life than [inaudible 00:17:41].

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but my supervisors would say otherwise maybe.

Dr Chris Hardy:

And yeah, [inaudible 00:17:48] thank you, I mean it is a really good so… And so Jacki, same question to you. What would you do differently if you were to start all over again, perish. the thought.

Jacki Stansfield:

Gosh. No, I completely agree. I think there’s a massive imposter syndrome with PhD students and you just think… You go into this meeting with your supervisors who you think know so much more than you and you feel so anxious about getting something wrong. And then I’ve just realized that it really doesn’t matter. My work doesn’t have to be perfect.

Jacki Stansfield:

In fact, my supervisor once time-outed me and was like, “Can you stop holding onto your work? I actually do want something to comment on. So can you not try and make it perfect because then you take away my job, which is to improve your work.” And I think something I’ve really learned, and if I could go back again, I’d implement it sooner is that you can challenge your supervisors.

Jacki Stansfield:

So if you don’t agree with a decision they make, or if they tell you to go in a direction that you don’t feel that your PhD should go in, challenge them because they want you to and you should be learning to be an independent thinker. And at the end of the day you’re the one standing there at the end with your PhD. And I didn’t learn that until recently, is that it’s okay to challenge your supervisor. It’s okay to have your own opinion. Yeah. So I think that I’d definitely like to take that into account if I started again.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah, I think that’s a really good point and I think again, it comes back to having that confidence to challenge your supervisors. And that you may not be able to challenge him or her to start with, but as you develop that relationship and over time, maybe around the beginning of year three when you have that kind of turning point maybe as you go forward you do have that confidence, which I agree is really important. And you also touched on imposter syndrome-

Jacki Stansfield:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

… which I think is a really important thing. Robyn you’re not nodding, would you like to-

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah, I think at the end of my first year I ended up writing a blog post on imposter syndrome and the techniques that I have to manage my own imposter syndrome because sometimes it’s just ridiculous. I’ll sit there thinking, “Oh, it was only me who applied for this PhD, then he chose me because I was their only option.” But one of my main strategies that I use now is whenever I get something that’s particularly positive in terms of feedback, I have a little notebook that I write it down in, so when I’m feeling like an impostor I can literally turn to the page in the book and it says, “No, you’re not an impostor. Look, these are all the good things that have been said about your work.”

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah that’s brilliant, yeah.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

So that’s-

Jacki Stansfield:

That’s a good idea.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… something I always say to everyone, just keep a note of the positives, yeah?

Dr Chris Hardy:

That’s sort of the idea. I think because academia’s so rife with rejections from grants, papers, applications for various things, I think having that record of when things do go well and you need to have positive things that kind of affirm that maybe you’re not an imposter, after all maybe you do deserve to be doing that PhD. I think that’s really good. Okay, great. So maybe this would be it, but I was going to ask you what your one piece of advice you would give to somebody in their first year and also what piece of advice would you give to somebody who’s a supervisor who may be listening as well. So Robyn.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

I would say the advice for someone who is in their first year would be don’t struggle on by yourself. Like even if you feel that you can’t go to your supervisors about an issue, there are so many other support networks within a lot of universities where you can get help and support. Even peer relationships. Like I have very good relationships with the other PhD students in my department, who sometimes you just need someone outside of the supervision team to just say, “This is what I’m going through. Have you got any similar experiences, advice, anything like that”.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

But also, yeah, if you’re really struggling, make sure you do go to your supervisors and say… Because sometimes I feel like I went quite quiet in my first year. There would be like three or four weeks where I’d have no contact at all with anyone. And those were the weeks that I struggled in because I didn’t know whether what I was doing was right.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

And then for advice for supervisors is, I think sometimes I struggle with the amount of track changes that I get in a document. And even if the track changes were changed from the red track changes to like a purple or a blue, that might be a nice thing to sort of open the document to.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Hmm, I [inaudible 00:22:10] but agree with that. Supervisors stop using red.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah, red is…

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Please stop using red.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… not a nice color. Just a green or an orange, like you’re in the right direction, but-

Dr Chris Hardy:

I think that is a feature within Microsoft Word. That is maybe achievable so we can agree to fix that right now.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Yeah, you can change them, yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, great. Thank you very much. But would you prefer it if your supervisor didn’t use track changes and just edited it directly?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

I like to see track changes, but it’s just, it’s the red that is…

Dr Chris Hardy:

It’s just the color of it.

Jacki Stansfield:

It’s quite overwhelming, isn’t it?

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. Thank you very much. Those are both really good pieces of advice. And Lisa, the same question to you. So advice to someone in the first year and a supervisor who maybe listening.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

So advice to someone in the first year is to take some you time. Don’t think that just because you’re doing a PhD you have to work seven days a week. I know it feels like it. I’m being very like hypocritical right now. And it feels like it but having a day off is more beneficial than struggling through that seventh day of work.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

You’ll get more done the following week if you have that time off for yourself. And I think it certainly taken me till recently to realize it’s all right just to put your computer away and just come back to it and then you’ll be far more productive when you are doing it than just struggling on and just staring at a screen for ages. So that would be my advice to somebody the first year and my advice to supervisors again don’t use red, is a big thing.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

I think I’d be very similar to you. I think it is about the feedback that you get firstly with supervisors, I think that’s very important. So I think as well as having all the feedback, I think sometimes having those positivities as well within your feedback I think goes a long way. Even if it’s just one in there, it’s kind of, it goes a long way. So I think it would be, again, to feed their level of feedback, positives or negative [crosstalk 00:00:24:24].

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay. I think that’s really good advice. And so Jacki coming to you, do you ask the same question?

Jacki Stansfield:

So for someone in their first year, what I would say is it’s completely normal to feel lost, particularly in your first year when you’re planning and you’re not entirely sure what your PhD is going to look like. I think that’s completely normal. And the advice would be to just push through, look at other PhD theses and talk to your supervisors and try and plan it out, but accept that feeling of being slightly lost because that’s okay. And it will work itself out in the end.

Jacki Stansfield:

And to supervisors, I think one of the main things would be to communicate with the people that you’re supervising. So if you’ve got a major grant application that’s going to take up all your time, just mention it to the people that you’re supervising so that they know that you’re busy and it’s not just radio silence. I think that can be really helpful. Just that level of communication. If someone sends a piece of work saying, “You know what, I’m not going to get this back to you in two weeks. I’m going to need longer” and I think that would go quite a long way for the supervisory relationship.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right. Again, great advice. Thank you. So we’ve got not very much time left, it’s flown by. Has anyone got any last minute tips or anything that we haven’t covered that you’d like to say. Maybe you’d like to finally take the opportunity to spill the beans on this [inaudible 00:25:54].

Jacki Stansfield:

I would say something I found really helpful is to set my supervisor’s deadlines and I think a lot of PhD students don’t feel like they can do that. But it is so helpful and to write minutes of your meetings so you have a log of what you’ve agreed so that if your supervisor changes their mind it’s much easier for you to say, “Oh but last week we agreed this,” if you’ve got it minuted and I think this is so, so helpful and it’s helped me a great deal.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, that’s really good advice.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah I completely agree with that as well. Like my supervisor’s actually said to me, “You need to write deadlines in your emails when you send us stuff, you need to tell us when you want this feedback for like…” Because they’re so busy with so many-

Jacki Stansfield:

Exactly.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… different things, they see I think so many students, but if they can put little thing in their calendar to say, “Feedback to Robyn on this date,” then it… And also it gives you an awareness of when you’re going to get the feedback because I think that’s something that can be quite scary, is-

Dr Chris Hardy:

Absolutely.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

… not expecting feedback and it popping into your inbox at eight o’clock the morning. That’s quite a scary thing.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right.

Jacki Stansfield:

Yeah. It just sets the expectations doesn’t it? If everyone knows what they’re doing and when work needs to be back by. And I think it just makes it so much easier when it’s clear.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Yeah. And I’m quite lucky because my supervisor is quite quick with feedback.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

That’s good, yeah.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

And I see it because we work to every other week. I have meetings with her every other week but more or less I see her with some issue every week. But she’s quite good at feedback or is quite good. We go through feedback sometimes in our meetings, which is also quite good because you get a deeper understanding and that can… So my very first piece of feedback we actually went through in the meeting and at the time it felt quite brutal to do that because you go through everything that’s essentially wrong with what you’re doing, but it helps so much with your writing in the future and you learn so much quicker on what not to do and it improves. So I’m quite lucky in that sense that I have quite a quick turnover-

Dr Chris Hardy:

Yeah, that sounds good.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

… in the feedback.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Yeah. And I think that you say if you can… So I tend to work my draft deadlines around supervision so I’ll tend to try and submit something like 10 days before a supervision so that people have a chance to look at it, either send me back comments or not. If they want to just bring it up in supervision, that’s also fine. But it just helps that everyone has it. And we can talk about it at that time because sometimes when you just get the comments it can be hard to make sense of them.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Right, that’s right.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

So being able to bring the document to supervision and say, “What did you mean by this?” Or if you have a comment like, “This could be clearer,” just being able to say, “What can I do to make it clearer?” Rather than that getting a document with comments and not being able to ask questions to the document. You know what I mean?

Dr Chris Hardy:

Okay, thank you. Just something that you said Jacki resonates with me is about taking minutes with your supervisor. When I first started and Jason, Professor Warren doesn’t know this, but I actually used a Dictaphone to record our meetings to start with, and I’m so sorry Jason if you’re listening, but that was incredibly helpful for me, going back to our discussion later on, trying to process what we’d talked about later.

Dr Chris Hardy:

Anyway, that’s it. That’s all we have time for. So thank you so much to all of you, I know you’ve traveled a long way some of you, so thank you very much.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Okay.

Jacki Stansfield:

Thank you.

Dr Chris Hardy:

We’ve had a really interesting discussion, I think, and we’ve talked about there being a turning point perhaps at the beginning of year three where you know that relationship with your supervisor changes and you start to take the lead. And I think we touched on imposter syndrome, which I thought was really interesting and I really liked your idea, Robyn, about having any kind of a book of good things that happen and going to that book every time things aren’t going quite as well as you deserve or would like.

Dr Chris Hardy:

So thank you so much to Jacki Stansfield, Robyn Dowlen and Lisa Thorpe. And to our listeners, please remember to subscribe to this podcast through SoundCloud and iTunes. Tell your friends and colleagues and share via social media using the #ECRdementia. Thanks very much.

Dr Lisa Thorpe:

Thank you.

Jacki Stansfield:

Thanks.

Dr Robyn Dowlen:

Thank you.

Voice Over:

This was a podcast brought to you by Dementia Researcher. Everything you need in one place. Register today at dementiaresearchernihr.ac.uk.

END


Like what you hear? Please review, like, and share our podcast – and don’t forget to subscribe to ensure you never miss an episode.

If you would like to share your own experiences or discuss your research in a blog or on a podcast, drop us a line to adam.smith@nihr.ac.uk or find us on twitter @dem_researcher

You can find our podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Spotify (and most podcast apps).

 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Get all the support you need sent straight to your inbox. Research news, oppertunities, blogs, podcasts, jobs, events, funding calls and much more – every friday!

No Thanks

Translate »