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Supervising dissertations tips?(4 Posts)
Any top tips for supervising msc dissertations?
I’m not an academic but do some casual teaching of practical skills in the subject I practice professionally.
Have the opportunity to supervise some dissertations. There’s not a whole lot of established process as far as I can tell. It’s not lab work.
What are your experiences / tips.
I spend quite a lot of my time supervising health related MSc dissertations. There's a huge breadth of abilities from those who just need an occasional check in that they're on the right track to those who want handholding sentence by sentence (I have to remind them that the aim is not for us both to receive the award jointly at graduation )
Make sure you set out the expectations of the level of support you will be giving, that you will not chase them but will be available if they contact you for the hours that should be specified in the module. For ours it indicates 10 hours as reasonable - which can be face to face, Skype or via emails or a combination. Suggest timelines for each part of the work - project planning is a useful transferable. Give firm cut off dates for reviewing drafts.
Encourage them to develop a question or idea that's clear and focussed and be prepared to spend some time challenging and discussing this so that they have a firm foundation to take the work forward. Try and get them to look at previous dissertations so they can visualise the end point .Tell them to look at the marking grid before they start writing and again when it's in the final draft.
Above all - enjoy it. I have learned so much about topics adjacent to my areas of expertise by supervising.
A good research question is really important. I find some students can't articulate this, so work is needed to develop one- occasionally I even veto one if it's truly terrible or in a really sparse area of research (or rather I don't say you can't do it, I say I advise you not to do that). In my discipline, dissertations can be theoretical or empirical- if theoretical the student often needs a lot of help with structure and articulating what is original about their contribution (so it's not just a basic review), if empirical they often under-estimate the time it takes to collect data and struggle with data analysis. I put on mini-sessions if more than one student is struggling with the same issue.