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Resources for Dissertation Writers

"There are two kinds of dissertations, finished and unfinished." - Anonymous. In this guide we hope dissertation writers will find helpful resources and tips to get your dissertation done. Resources for dissertation supervisors and dissertation committee

A Checklist for PhD Supervisors

(from Univ. of Toronto

  • Are you careful to limit the number of students you accept for supervision to a manageable number? Thesis supervision is demanding of time and effort, and it is far worse for students to be cheated out of their legitimate expectations of their supervisor than to be turned down at the start.
  • Have you developed an understanding with your doctoral students concerning the mechanics of supervision, the kind and amount of advice you are able and willing to offer, the frequency and regularity with which you expect to see them, a “plan of campaign” (e.g., the timing of submission of a dissertation outline, of draft chapters), and your mutual expectation concerning the quality and originality of the completed dissertation?
  • Has the topic of research been refined in the initial stages of work? Is the scope of the dissertation project excessively ambitious? Too narrow? Are satisfied with the student’s progress and background knowledge of the subject?
  • Do you inform your students when you plan to be on research leave or absent for an extended period of time from the university? Have you made satisfactory arrangements for supervision of the student during this time?
  • Is your student aware of university, faculty, and program requirements and standards to which the dissertation is expected to conform?
  • Do you support your students in their effort to acquire external funding, to publish scholarly articles or to present conference papers?
  • Do you give top priority to returning work swiftly and commenting on it thoroughly? (A turn-around time of a couple of weeks for a chapter is usually reasonable unless a different understanding exists; a turn-around time of two months is professional negligence.)
  • When your students’ dissertations are complete or nearly complete, do you actively support their efforts to get a job, advise them on how best to sell themselves, and use your professional contacts to provide what help you can?

Web Resources: For Faculty

Research Supervision 
from Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford
The "Being a Supervisor" section covers the following topics: new supervisors, experienced supervisors, graduate admissions, supervisory styles, student-supervisor relationships, co-supervision, giving and receiving feedback, monitoring student progress, avoiding potential difficulties, and improving your supervisory practice. 

Promising Practices for Mentoring and Advising 
from Council of Graduate Schools 

Best Practices and Mentoring in Doctoral Education
from Rutgers University 

Who wants Einstein? Supervision of PhD students 
The first two parts of the three-part videos are about supervision of PhD students. 
# Part 1 - The Good Example (41:45) 
  1. Ensure student work is fun
  2. Clarify expectations and structure 
  3. Often no truth, just choices 
  4. Realize that student grows 
  5. Talk openly about disagreement 
  6. Have the right amount of supervisors 
  7. Students should decide pretty much 
  8. Supervisor must encourage and support

# Part 2 -- Disagreements are OK (33:05) 
  1. Students lack of influence 
  2. Supervisor is not up to date 
  3. Sometimes bad advice is given 
  4. Student needs to mediate between supervisors 
  5. Personal chemistry and emotions 
  Supplemented by a research article:  Gunnarsson, R., Jonasson, G., & Billhult, A. (2013). The experience of disagreement   between students and supervisors in PhD education: a qualitative study. BMC medical education13(1), 134. Retrieved from  


Halse, C. & Bansel, P.  (2012). The learning alliance: ethics in doctoral supervision, Oxford Review of Education 38(4), 377-392, DOI: 10.1080/03054985.2012.706219  Retrieved from  

Halbert, K. (2015). Students’ perceptions of a ‘quality’advisory relationship.Quality in Higher Education21(1), 26-37. Retrieved from 

Future of Doctoral Dissertations

Resources on new and emerging types of dissertations (from Council of Graduate Schools), including articles and web sites: 

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