What do I need to know about research supervision?

Getting started


  • What is involved in research supervision?
  • How can I develop good supervision skills?

Providing Effective Research Supervision

Learning about Supervision

Research supervision is a core activity of academics, whether this relates to supervising small undergraduate projects, a masters' dissertation or a doctoral thesis. 

Providing good supervision takes time, effort, patience and understanding your students needs and abilities.  It requires you to make use of your subject discipline expertise and current research activities as well as being able to form and maintain a good working relationship with a student for what may be a considerable length of time. It also requires you to keep your student on track, both in terms of their scope and focus of research as well as the time available for them to complete their studies.

  • New and newly arrived academics are required to take a two part doctoral supervision workshop. This workshop will help you to identify what is involved in being a good supervisor.
  • Have a look at the checklists and guidance on supervision at the Supervision Tools web page. Reading these documents and discussing them with colleagues and students will help you better understand the supervision process.

At the University of Auckland, the School of Graduate Studies has overall responsibility for the policies and procedures for graduate programmes, for the promotion of graduate study, and advocacy for graduate students. The University provides resources to support your supervision activities which include policies and procedures and tools and workshops to help you be a more effective supervisor. 

Good Supervision

The Graduate School has this to say about supervision:

Supervision is the distinctive teaching and learning process used for graduate research education at The University of Auckland and most universities worldwide.

Supervision can be challenging for both supervisors and students. It is useful to review practice and try new techniques. Reflecting on what happens may help to bring to the surface differences between supervisor and student understandings and expectations, or to clarify thinking at critical moments in the process.

Research literature indicates that good communication is fundamental to supervision. It plays an important role in building trust and goodwill, and helps to prevent misunderstandings between supervisor and student. Good communication will ensure the effectiveness and enjoyment of supervision as well as the progress of the student's research. Communication skills are an aspect of our interpersonal functioning that can always be improved to meet the demands of different situations. In the early stages of supervision especially, regular meetings will help to establish effective communication.

Research supervision can be immensely rewarding for both supervisor and student, but it can equally be frustrating and dispiriting. Not all students will be appropriate for you to supervise and equally you will not be an appropriate supervisor for all students. You will need to know enough about the topic of research, research methods and current literature to be able to support the student effectively, you may need to involve another supervisor to support the student. Student learning styles, need for direction or support or even their personality will all impact on your decision to supervise and how well the relationship will work. Also consider your own workload, possible periods of study or absence and how many students you are supervising.

As with any professional activity, being prepared and undertaking professional development can help you be more effective, facilitate the supervisory process and enable your students to achieve their potential. 

Sanjay Garg talks about his experience with research supervision:

Click to view the video (requires Flash Player).



Satisfactory performance can also be evidenced through completing the University of Auckland requirements for supervision of students. Merit might be achieved through evidencing planned, negotiated, timely and appropriate supervision of research students.

  • You can start an ePortfolio record to evidence what you have done/what you intend to do to ensure that you have met UOA requirements for supervision of students and that your supervision is planned, negotiated, timely and appropriate.

Taking it further

Mainhard, T., Rijst, R. v. d., Tartwijk, J. v., & Wubbels, T. (2009). A Model for the Supervisor–Doctoral Student Relationship Higher Education, 58(3), 359-373.
The supervisor–doctoral student interpersonal relationship is important for the success of a PhD-project. Therefore, information about doctoral students’ perceptions of their relationship with their supervisor can be useful for providing detailed feedback to supervisors aiming at improving the quality of their supervision. This paper describes the development of the questionnaire on supervisor–doctoral student interaction (QSDI). This questionnaire aims at gathering information about doctoral students’ perceptions of the interpersonal style of their supervisor. The QSDI appeared to be a reliable and valid instrument. It can be used in research on the relationship between supervisor and doctoral student and can provide supervisors with feedback on their interpersonal style towards a particular student.

 University of Auckland Resources for Staff

University of Auckland Postgraduate Policies and Guidelines

This page includes Masters and Doctoral policies and guidelines.

University of Auckland School of Graduate Studies

The School of Graduate Studies has overall responsibility for the development and oversight of policies and procedures for graduate programmes, and for the promotion of graduate study and advocacy for graduate students.

University of Auckland School of  Graduate Studies Supervision Tools

The School of Graduate Studies provides supervision tools for getting started in postgraduate supervision.
University of Auckland School of  Graduate Studies Orientation to Doctoral Supervision Worshops
The School of Graduate Studies runs a two-hour introductory course on doctoral supervision which is mandatory for all staff who supervise graduate research students. The course provides an introduction to the policy and process environment governing the supervision and the examination of doctoral students.You can download the documents associated witth the workshop by visiting this web page.
There is a mandatory two-hour follow up to the introductory course on doctoral supervision. The follow up workshop - "The Art of Graduate Supervision" will take you through the supervision tools. You can enrol for these workshops through the Centre for Academic Development.

University of Auckland Resources for Students

University of Auckland Postgraduate Support

A page that provides links to specialised support for postgraduate students including a doctoral skills programme and career advice.

University of Auckland School of Graduate Studies

The School of Graduate Studies has overall responsibility for the development and oversight of policies and procedures for graduate programmes, and for the promotion of graduate study and advocacy for graduate students.

Add to myEportfolio

If you need to log in:

FMHS staff - log in with NetID/UPI. Registration is not required. Affiliated members, e.g. clinical teachers who don't have NetID, can register for an account after clicking 'Login'.

What is myEportfolio?
Questions regarding access

What do I need to know about research supervision?

“A teaching philosophy can help you to reflect on how and why you teach. If you don’t have a teaching philosophy, you might want to consider writing one. You can take a look at What makes a good teacher? to get started. If you already have a teaching philosophy, you might want to reflect on how the work that you are doing here fits with that philosophy”.