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Masters dissertation - should your supervisor have experience in your area?

(12 Posts)
AmazingAugust Sun 07-Feb-16 10:22:31

Hello you very clever lot, only a lowly MSc student here wink

The thread about PhD supervisors has got me thinking. I'm doing an MSc and we have been allocated dissertation supervisors quite randomly it seems; they certainly haven't been allocated by research area, which is what I and my fellow students were expecting. Is this quite normal at this level? Should it matter? smile

geekaMaxima Sun 07-Feb-16 13:55:58

You won't know how much it matters until you meet with your supervisor, and it probably also depends on your discipline.

I've been allocated Masters students in the past who were not particularly interested in my research area, but were using a similar methodology that I would be able to supervise well.

I've also been allocated students who were in my research area but whose project ideas were terrible unfeasible, so we had to work out quite a different project.

At Masters' level in my discipline, it's about advanced training in theory via taught modules and research practices via the dissertation. When I'm selecting PhD candidates. I'm far more interested in the methods and skills they used in a Masters' course than a precise match between their dissertation topic and my research project.

I'm not sure if it's different in other disciplines - what's your Masters in?

Andfaraway Sun 07-Feb-16 14:53:10

It's what we do as well, and anyone in my department is capable of supervising a 20,000 word diss. They are likely to suggest you talk to others if they are not the expert in the field, but any of us can see whether an argument will fly.

I've also supervised PhDs quite successfully where I'm not the world-leading expert in the field. Most of it is about taking the student through the process of researching and constructing an argument.

ScottishProf Fri 12-Feb-16 07:13:58

Yes, normal.

MatildaBeetham Fri 12-Feb-16 07:26:21

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ifigoup Fri 12-Feb-16 07:34:47

There are two things going on here: one is that any academic worth their salt in your broad discipline will be able to tell you whether your project idea is decent (and, importantly, achievable in the short length of time and words you have for a Master's dissertation).

The other point about postgraduate study is that you are learning how to be an independent researcher - so while you can certainly expect support and advice from your supervisor, you also need to take ownership of your project and realize that it is your responsibility and you are the one who is becoming the expert in your chosen sub-area.

museumum Mon 15-Feb-16 22:19:51

I supervise dissertations at MSc level. There is only one area on our MSc that I ask not to be allocated projects in as I'm really out of date and it doesn't relate to my work. The others I'll do and if I don't have a bit of knowledge I'll ask a colleague.

fluffikins Tue 16-Feb-16 16:33:38

I think it depends on method rather than area. I have colleagues who point blank refuse to understand what s hypothesis is and are purely qualitative researchers but most people can supervise quants and qual if they're not being difficult

Andthereshewas77 Sun 13-Mar-16 09:58:37

I agree about considering methodology first. That's what gets you through so if your supervisor can't support that, you're in trouble.
I have supervised probably 40 medics undertaking a research MSc - the topic area is usually so narrow that it's not a problem for me - I'm not a medic.

christinemedalen Thu 17-Mar-16 15:22:53

Well, at my school students are the ones who are choosing their supervisors and topics. Surely, it may cause some 'havoc' but this way I got the topic I wanted to research and a pretty good supervisor. Actually, I heard in many grad schools students are coming up with their topics, but in mine we don't. Still, choosing one out of the list of already existing and pretty interesting topics eases my job. Actually, after checking out posts from stanford.edu or dissertation writer about how students are choosing their topics, I became relieved I didn't have to. shamrock shamrock shamrock

memememe94 Thu 07-Apr-16 13:15:54

You done have to choose your own topic confused. It sounds like one heck of a lot of spoon-feeding. Even UGs have to develop their own dissertation project and identify a supervisor.

quit2dis Thu 07-Apr-16 13:36:59

It sounds like one heck of a lot of spoon-feeding. Even UGs have to develop their own dissertation project and identify a supervisor.

This is very subject dependent. In my field even PGRs at top universities would be heavily guided by their supervisors, and not expected to develop their own projects until their final year.

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