How to best utilise your dissertation supervisor

If you have begun your third year, then no doubt you are making progress on your dissertation. Whether you’ve drafted part of a chapter or just started to plan, an exciting project is in the works. The mark you receive will change your degree classification, so it’s important to yank your socks up here!

Of course, it can be easy to feel isolated during this period. It’s no secret that dissertations are incredibly hard, and getting tunnel vision in the library at 2am doesn’t help things either. However, you’re not alone. The dissertation supervisor is there to help!

Consequently, here’s a few tips on how to best utilise your dissertation supervisor.


Meetings and communication


Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. To get help from a supervisor, you need to book regular meetings with them so they can help you as best they can. Your liaisons will most likely take place in their office, and you’ll simply sit in there for a few minutes and discuss your plans and objectives.

How often you visit your supervisor is up to you, but try to aim for routine sessions. You’re in control here. Remember, no one’s going to force you to see them. The only one missing out if you don’t is you, so make sure you bleed them dry of their wisdom. Many tend to be shocked by low dissertation classifications, so do everything you can to avoid a nasty surprise!



Interest and gratification


Though you’re free to pick your topic, this doesn’t mean every approved dissertation thesis is a winner. Though all permitted dissertation subjects have the potential to pass, others will pass better. For example, if your thesis has been done to death before now, you’ll be sifting through older ideas that someone else made instead of making new ones of your own.

In your first meeting, try to have an honest and frank discussion about your overall subject and the potential it has. You will have been required to take your plan along with you, so really combe through your ideas and structure and map out a sense of where you’re at. The enthusasim of your supervisor should tell you a bit about your dissertations potential, so if they don’t seem too intrigued, perhaps consider changing your topic if you feel that’s best.

Honesty is important here. If you’re onto a winner, they’ll tell you, and if your dissertation topic is a bit middling, they’ll tell you so if you ask them! You can change topics early on in the process, so get your answers quickly!

choosing topic for dissertation


Guidance and direction


In the same way that booking a meeting is up to you, the subject of the meeting is in your control too. Consequently, this is a great time to address any flaws and concerns in relation to your project. Before you attend your scheduled appointment, take the time to map out what you want to talk about.

Unfortunately, there’s only so much time you can spend with your supervisor. Most universities have a cap in terms of how much time you can spend with them discussing your dissertation. Therefore, most of the words out of your mouth really need to count, so plan out the areas of important discussion beforehand.



Feedback and reflection


Towards the end of your dissertation journey, you’ll get to a stage where your time spent editing overtakes your new writing. You’ll be sifting through everything you’ve done, trying to streamline many ideas into a single flow. It’s tough, but doable, and made all the easier with help from your supervisor.

The editing stage is often misinterpreted as the ‘nearly done’ phase of the project, but that’s not quite true. You’ll be forced to remove and add sections of your dissertation, maybe even entire paragraphs. Who better to advise you here than your supervisor? They can tell you what works best, where points don’t quite land, and which points are more expendable than others.

Their best judgement here is key to your success, so keep seeing them until you’re literally finished. Many supervisors will read entire chapters for you, or smaller pieces if you’d like, so send them off a few days before your meetings so they have a chance to catch up.


Struggling to choose a dissertation topic? See our blog here on how to decide.