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Academics please help - dissertation supervision problem

(15 Posts)
nobodysbaby Fri 24-Jun-11 14:37:03

I’m worried about the level of supervision of my Master’s degree dissertation. All supervision takes place through e-mail as I’m part time and off campus. Supervision started at Easter – I sent a bibliography and a plan straight away, and waited exactly 4 weeks for a brief but helpful response from my supervisor. 2 weeks later I sent a 3000 word chapter – that was 4 weeks ago today and I still haven’t heard back. I’ve sent another e-mail, but got nothing back. Supervision is supposed to be complete by the end of June, although the dissertation isn’t due in until September. Is this typical? Do I have grounds for complaint?

hatwoman Fri 24-Jun-11 14:40:33

when I did my dissertation I got a couple of non-specific lectures on planning and researching a dissertation (they were actually very helpful) and a 20 minute chat with each of 4 lecturers, based on an extremely preliminary draft idea. and then I was left to it.

nobodysbaby Fri 24-Jun-11 14:44:09

Thanks hatwoman - how did you get on? I should add that I'm not struggling with the work, I'm happy to get on with it on my own - just concerned that I might be taking a wrong direction and won't find out until it's too late. Also, it seems like I'm not getting much for the 1500 quid it's costing my employer.

hatwoman Fri 24-Jun-11 14:52:04

ok - I got it published in a journal.

the best bits of advice were
- spend all year (possibly a bit late to say that now) thinking about it, scribbling down things that catch your interest, questions that arise from your reading but which you don't have time to pursue
- have a question - this will help it be research-based rather than descriptive
- when writing imagine you're writing for an informed reader - but one who might not know the detailed ins and outs of your specifc subject
- aim to produce something like a journal article

campergirls Fri 24-Jun-11 14:54:12

That doesn't sound good enough to me. I am supervising MA students' dissertations at the moment: typically I've met with them 3 times for 30-40 minutes each since they started work in mid-May, and also had email exchanges with them. None of them has submitted any draft material yet, but I would expect to give detailed feedback within a week or two (depending a bit on when I got it - the last few weeks I have been hideously busy and it would have taken a bit longer, now that UG exam boards etc are over I'll manage to be a bit more prompt!).

RoseC Fri 24-Jun-11 14:55:36

If you have time (maybe during work hours if employer is paying?) call the academic directly. My supervisor last year was honestly one of the worst supervisors ever (DP and his friends are postdocs and they agreed with me) and just didn't register emails - they slipped down his to-do list as he got so many. I took to pouncing on him as he left his study or giving him a call. If he wouldn't answer the phone I'd ask the school secretary to let him know I'd called (she was lovely). I found that more effective.

Four weeks is unusual - mine took that long to get back to me from a query sent one week before a deadline so I got a one week extension from his response. If you can't get hold of them go higher up. They may be at a conference or busy marking exam papers. My current supervisor is lax at email but always in his office - however like you I can't just drop in!

nobodysbaby Sat 25-Jun-11 17:39:47

Thanks for the help everyone, it's much appreciated.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Mon 27-Jun-11 21:01:17

Hope I'm not too late - does your university not have a policy on how many supervisions to expect and how often? I''d check for it, and if there isn't one (which I think there should be), get in touch with the head of department and ask if what your getting is acceptable. It's your education, it's importaant.

nobodysbaby Wed 29-Jun-11 14:52:18

Thanks LRD - the policy states that we're entitled to a maximum of 5 half hour sessions. There's no chance of anything approaching that for me now, since the supervision period ends at the end of June - i.e. tomorrow - and I've only had one response almost seven weeks ago. This is a bit vague as it says 'maximum' - but nevertheless i'll be complaining to the course leader.

Tortu Wed 29-Jun-11 21:04:52

Hey, just to say, 'be pushy!'

Am currently doing my second masters, possibly because I had such a hard time with my first one. Essays etc. were fine, but then my dissertation supervisor was AWFUL. I only met with him once (though he had checked a couple of drafts and said they were fine) and it was quite obvious he hadn't even read the essay and we had a cringeworthy 30 minutes whilst he critiqued the first page. It was all very funny at the time (oh how we laughed when I did impressions in the bar later), but then I failed.

A year later (and with a different supervisor) I passed, but had had to pretty much redo everything because I had made some major mistakes which were in areas I'd been concerned about but, because of the lack of comments, had assumed were fine.

On to my next only at the dissertation stage now, but experienced problems with my last essay. Bearing in mind the issues last time, I am now very paranoid and am insisting on getting all of my essays carefully checked in draft form before they're handed in. The last essay took 5 months to be checked. I sent four emails, resent it, phoned twice and then went through the complaints procedures.

You can be sure that I will be extremely pushy with my dissertation.

LRDTheFeministNutcase Wed 29-Jun-11 23:53:50

Good luck with complaints - maybe stress that part of the problem you've had is unclear policy! They should have provided you with clear information abotu what to expect. Really fed up on your behalf.

Fennel Thu 30-Jun-11 10:28:18

That may be typical (unfortunatly) but it isn't good enough.

Do you have a supervision contract? We have those, student and supervisor have it outlined what is expected, we all sign. Also student and supervisor are encouraged to keep a record of supervision contact and sessions. Could you do this? note when you send things, and what contact you have and don't have? And I suggest you also enquire to the student office or course admin person about the supervision contract.

I think we are expected to spend an hour a week on each postgrad student, for the duration of supervising them. You could imagine that as a reasonable expectation. That hour includes meetings, phone calls, and reading drafts.

alicatte Sun 03-Jul-11 19:08:28

My supervisor told me she had had those sorts of problems when she was doing her M.A. In the end she had to seek help from the professor one level up from her supervisor. My supervisor was brilliant with me - perhaps because of her own experience, I don't think it's as uncommon as it should be. Good luck with your dissertation.

Parietal Sun 03-Jul-11 19:14:04

As an academic, I'd say nag us more! If I don't get back to a student within 1week, I want that student to nag & remind me. Otherwise the emails just get lost.

nobodysbaby Sun 03-Jul-11 20:54:48

Thanks again all, I'm going to try talking to the course leader tomorrow and see where that gets me.

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