STEMskiller: Skill Set Map for Mentors of Early Career Researchers

RESEARCH AND SCHOLARSHIP: Completing a doctorate (PhD)

How to work with PhD supervisors


For mentees that have not had much experience in working/research environments, proper preparation for supervisory meetings may be a new task, and therefore challenging. Mentees may also struggle with preparation of data and results for meetings with mentors and may not understand that they share responsibility for specific research tasks within research groups. The following resources provide mentors with guidance on the mentorship process, with links to general meeting preparation pages that can be shared with mentees and a link to a resource on reporting data which mentees can read independently. A sample handbook for students which can be replicated by institutions struggling with mentor/mentee relationship issues is provided as well.

Useful resources on Working with Supervisors (PhD):

Bathelt, J. (2020). How to prepare for a meeting with your PhD supervisor like a pro.

Provides sample structure for the meeting agenda, including progress since the last meeting, questions/challenges, and plans. Helpful sample planning diagram.

Monash University. (2021). Reporting and discussing your findings.

Geared towards those writing doctoral dissertations, tips provided are also helpful in preparing brief research updates to supervisors in meetings. Overviews regarding preparing and discussing your findings, activities for self-practice, and links to topical areas mentees may not be familiar with yet (including the concept of quantitative data). Helpful chart of when to use present and past tense when reporting results. 

University of Cambridge University and College Union. (2008). The researchers’ survival guide.

Part 2, “You and Your Research Manager” (pp. 14-27) define what researchers should expect from their mentors. Advice for principal investigators and supervisors is provided in pages 27-29.

University of Leicester. (n.d.). Before the Supervisory Meeting.

Discusses the three main steps in meeting preparation: scheduling, setting an agenda, and preparing work for discussion. 

University of Washington Graduate School. (2020). What a good mentor does.

List of qualities to look for in a mentor with links to more information about the mentoring process.

Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington Faculty of Graduate Research. (n.d.). Supervision Meetings.

Tips for clarifying expectations, preparing for meetings, and getting the most out of them.

University of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School. (2020). How the Mentor Graduate Students: A Guide for Faculty. Graduate Student Mentoring Guide: A Guide for Students.

Concise handbooks for mentors and mentees describing the nature of the mentoring relationship, expectations for both parties, and sample frameworks for STEM mentors and students to use in developing shared expectations (Faculty Guide, p. 23/p. 13 of PDF file and Student Guide, p. 18/p. 13 of PDF). Excellent model for institutions that do not yet have such handbooks. 


Peer Review: None

Table of contents:

1.4.1. How to work with PhD supervisors


Author: Stephanie Krueger

Peer Reviewer(s): None

Last Updated: October 26, 2021


Editor: Stephanie Krueger Last modified: 26.10. 2021 16:10