Supervision is one of the backbones of graduate student success. Your supervisor will help guide and mentor you in the research portion of your degree (i.e. your thesis), and the relationship you build can have a special and lasting impact on your career. It can also be a daunting relationship to navigate at first. In this section, you will find a general introduction to supervision, as well as where you can turn to to find more details, advice, and support.

Being Matched

If you are a PhD student, or a Masters student enrolled in a thesis program, then you will be matched with a supervisor.

The matching process often occurs during the application and admission, however the exact process and timing varies by program, and can occur as late as the second year of study. 

If you are unsure about when or how you will be matched with a supervisor, you can find more information on your program or department's website, or by contacting your Graduate Program Coordinator for specifics.

Your First Meeting

Your first meeting with your supervisor is an important one! It is at this meeting that you and your supervisor clarify the expectations you have for one another and the relationship as a whole. These expectations should be recorded in a "Letter of Understanding." This letter usually includes expectations such as:

  • Frequency of supervisory meetings
  • Frequency and method of communication between meetings
  • Feedback expectations
  • Expectations of written work
  • Expectations of professional development
  • Funding and and teaching opportunities
  • Lab work expectations
  • Authorship policies

You can visit GPS' Discussing Expectations page for further advice for setting expectations and drafting the "Letter of Understanding."  

Addressing Conflicts

Conflicts can occur in any relationship, and the supervisory relationship is no exception. In most cases, your first step should be to speak to your supervisor about the problem and seek a solution together. When that doesn't help, you can refer to the "hierarchy of help," which outlines the order in which you should escalate your concern if it is not addressed:

A representation of the hierarchy of help. When struggling to address a conflict, you should first speak to your Supervisor, followed by: the supervisory committee, the graduate program director, the graduate program or department chair, the faculty associate dean, the GPS associate dean, and finally the GPS dean, as needed.

For more practical advice and resources for addressing a conflict with your supervisor, please visit the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies' Supervisor-Supervisee Relationship page. 

More Information

The best place to find further information, advice, policies, and resources related to supervision is the Supervision website, provided by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. We highly recommend reading this website prior to the start of your studies, or meeting with your supervisor.

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