Dissertation Learning Support

Building a relationship with your Masters supervisor

Whether you’re well underway or still thinking about your Masters dissertation or extended project, one of the key things you’ll need to do is build a good relationship with your supervisor.

It’s important that you make the most of the time you have with your supervisor and understand what their role in your work is.

Know what’s expected

Each school has different expectations around the number of meetings and contact expected between Masters’ students and their supervising academic. Know what yours are and know who will take the lead in setting up the meetings. Don’t be afraid to be proactive in getting the process started.

Once the process is underway make sure you know ask about contact outside the formal structure should you need to – are they still holding office hours? If not how do you make an appointment to see them?

As teaching time is now finished make sure you check if there are any different arrangements over summer and whether you’re supervisor is going to be away for any extended periods.

Also be clear about what they want to see and when in terms out drafts and what they are happy to look over for you.

Know what you want

Whenever you have a meeting, make sure you know what you want to discuss before you show up. Knowing exactly what you want to find out will help you get the most out of the meeting.

Also as you get further along expect to receive feedback and to be challenged. Try not to look at it as criticism and learn how to respond in a positive way – by questioning further or accepting you may have missed something.

Visit other academics

Remember, you are allowed to go and chat to other academics for advice and guidance. Whilst they will not know your project as well as your supervisor, they can be a useful point of contact for reading suggestions so if there is someone with relevant expertise then why not go and see them? But remember to drop them an email first.

“I think students really must just be brave and knock on the door and, overwhelmingly in my experience, will receive a positive welcome. If they want to discuss a particular academic issue or question, I always find it very useful for them to think carefully about the issue, do some reading around it, so they might be in a position to discuss in detail rather than simply come in and say please help me with this.”

Dr David Brown – Senior Lecturer in American Studies

Ask the right people

Academics are very busy people so make sure they are the right person to contact. For admin questions, it is often better to contact your department’s student support staff, and they usually reply more promptly!