When you are trying to work out how to write a dissertation and you are putting together a dissertation proposal, your college will assign you a supervisor.  The relationship with the supervisor is really important: a good supervisor can be a valuable guide to steer your research in the right direction.  What should you expect from the supervisor and how do you get one?

Dissertation help: choosing your supervisor

You will be asked to choose an appropriate supervisor for your area of research.  You will choose a supervisor who you believe is best placed to help you with your research.  They should have a good knowledge of the field you propose working in and should help you find appropriate dissertation examples from former students. In order to choose the right supervisor for you, find out as much about the staff in your department.  The department handbook may give you a brief biography of each lecturer and you may find that they have published a number of journal articles or books.  Research them further online and make the best choice for you.

Problems when writing a dissertation

Unfortunately sometimes there are problems with your supervisor.  Perhaps they have been appointed to be Head of Department and their time is taken up with administrative tasks, or they seem to lose interest in your subject.  Perhaps it is hard to get hold of them or they don’t respond to your messages.  Maybe they can’t give you help with transferable skills because they think this is outside their field, such as improving your academic editing.

The most important thing is not to lose your temper or be over-demanding.  Supervisors are human too and may have their own problems: personal or occupational.  It is also possible that you haven’t understood the role of the supervisor fully.  At this stage in your studies you are expected to work fairly independently.  Have a look at these guidelines from the University of Manchester and consider whether you have really understood the role of the supervisor for your dissertation.

Changing your dissertation supervisor

In extreme circumstances, you may approach the department head in order to change your supervisor.  Don’t attribute any blame regarding the breakdown of your relationship with your current supervisor.  Stay polite and calm.  You may be stuck with that supervisor due to staff shortages or timetabling issues, so the last thing you want to do is upset someone by accusing them of not doing their job properly.  Try to see the situation from the supervisor’s point of view.  Be understanding.

Are you working on your undergraduate or masters dissertation?  Do you have a good supervisor?  Post your comments below.