09 March 2011

How to have a good supervision

Today, I had a good supervision, despite initial fears that it wasn't going to be. I had done a bit of writing for my supervisors and got their comments back this morning. The comments were spot on, actually, but I was frustrated. Basically, I hadn't done what I needed to, but I'd only had a couple of weeks to do the writing, I had been sick, I was trying to work on my data for most of the time, etc. So the meeting loomed ominous for me. But it was successful, and I think I had a couple of insights from it that I might blog:

  • Start your meeting off by saying that you read the comments and understand and then explain the comments back to them in your own words to make sure you understand.
  • Giving excuses about how much time you had to do something will never lead in a good way. Even if I didn't have enough time, it doesn't matter: the point is the writing wasn't good enough, not how much time I had. Complaining about it will take about 5 minutes and get you right back to the point you started: the writing wasn't good enough.
  • Your supervisors want you to succeed. Thinking they're out to get you is stupid. You fail, they fail. You succeed, they succeed. 
  • Your supervisors are more intelligent than you and know what they're doing. You have never done a PhD, they have. They have supervised PhDs before (in most cases), you haven't. They know what you need to do to get through to the end: you don't. 
Bottom line: argue when and only when it has the chance of a positive outcome. And trust your supervisors. Then again, I don't have my PhD yet and perhaps this might fail. We'll see.