Supervision

The MRes/PhD Programme Director, currently Professor Ronny Razin|, will be the first point of contact for all 1st year MRes students (Track 1). If you have any questions or concerns about your studies and progress, or you need advice, this is the first person to see.

All 2nd year MRes students (Track 1) and 1st year MRes students (Track 2) are assigned a faculty member as supervisor based on research interest. The main role of your supervisor in this year is to discuss your preparation for your MRes (EC599) research paper. If you have any questions or concerns about your studies and progress, or you need advice, he/she is the first person to see.

It is our expectation that this person would continue to be involved in your supervision as a PhD student. You can change supervisors if it becomes apparent, for any reason, that another person would be a more suitable research supervisor. Please see the instructions on changing your supervisor below. After you are upgraded to PhD status, you will also have a secondary advisor (or a co-supervisor) in addition to your primary supervisor.

supervision

Choosing your Research Supervisor|

What the Research Supervisor Does (and Doesn't) Do|

Changing your Research Supervisor|

 

Choosing your Research Supervisor

At the end of the 1st year (Track 1) or upon enrolment in the MRes programme (Track 2), you should start to look for a supervisor. Go the Department's website for a full list of the faculty research fields|.

You can also find a lot of information on the web pages |of individual faculty members. More advanced PhD students are also an excellent source of information about individual supervisors. However, you should keep in mind that it is important that you find a supervisor with whom you will have a good working relationship. As we all have different styles and temperaments, a supervisor who works for someone else may not work equally well for you. Hence, you may want to talk to more than one faculty member before making your choice. Don't feel shy about approaching faculty with your interests. They will be happy to talk to you.

Any member of the Department who has passed major review (typically after five years in the job) can act as a primary supervisor. There may be circumstances in which a junior faculty member would be the most suitable supervisor but is ineligible. In this case the junior faculty member and a more senior member can act as co-supervisors, or the junior member can act as advisor.

In exceptional circumstances, supervision outside the Department or possibly outside the LSE can be provided after the PhD upgrade. In such cases, either the supervisor or the advisor has to be from the Department.

When you have reached an agreement with a faculty member about supervision, please inform the MRes Programme Administrator, currently Mark Wilbor|, immediately of your selection.

The MRes/PhD Programme Director, currently Professor Ronny Razin|, is there to help if you have questions or difficulties in finding a supervisor yourself. The Department will find a supervisor for every student. However, no individual member of faculty is obliged to take on a student, however strongly the student may want it. In the final instance, the MRes/PhD Programme Director will allocate a suitable supervisor. The Department will attempt to allocate every student with a supervisor by the end of October of the year in which the student is writing the MRes (EC599) research paper.

What the Research Supervisor Does (and Doesn't) Do

The supervisor's role is to support students in developing their methodological and analytical skills and to guide them in achieving the tasks necessary to successfully complete a thesis. Supervisors will discuss potential research questions with you, and read and comment on drafts and chapters. The emphasis is on support and guidance. The momentum must come primarily from you. It is important that your PhD topic is one of your own choosing. You should not expect your supervisor to give you a topic or research question, nor is it necessarily a good idea to adopt each and every suggestion they make. You will have to work on your topic for a very long period and it is important that it excites you. This is unlikely to be the case if you simply follow your supervisor's suggestions slavishly. Ideally, of course, your supervisor should be equally excited about your research topic as well.

It is important that the relationship you develop with your supervisor is right for the way that you both work, and for the subject matter of your research. Much will depend on your personality and that of your supervisor. Some supervisors take a more hands on approach, meeting with students very frequently, whilst others primarily provide more substantive guidance at some major junctures as your research progresses. Some supervisors may give a fair amount of consultation via email whilst others rely primarily on face-to-face meetings.

The Department adheres to the the LSE Code of Practice for Research Students and their Supervisors|, which outlines a general framework for supervision. Perhaps the most important parts of this code are:

  • The student can expect three supervisions per term of approximately one-hour in length in the first year and two supervisions per term thereafter.
  • Written work should normally be given a response within a month. If this is not possible, a clear indication of when a response can be expected should be given.
  • The advisor plays a less prominent role in the supervision process and meets the student at least once a year, but ensures continuity of the supervision process should the main supervisor become unavailable (e.g. because of leave).

In the first year or so of research, it is not unusual to have a relatively unfocused picture, and so there may be a need to have relatively frequent meetings. These meetings may well seem inconclusive and very discursive, precisely because the research area is ill-defined. Much of the feedback from the supervisor may seen negative at this stage. Most research ideas fail (this is true for anyone, not just novice researchers), and your supervisor will want to help avoid you wasting your time on a hopeless project. The value of a discussion with the supervisor may also not always be evident until some time later; the supervisor's role is to help bring the vision and perspective to your research which new PhD students may lack. Whilst this is often a difficult and frustrating period of the PhD experience (although it should also be a very exciting one), it is a necessary one, and it is important to make sure that negative feedback from your supervisor does not affect a constructive relationship.

Later on in the research process, when the ideas have clarified and the focus is sharper, there may be fewer but more structured meetings. In the period of writing up the thesis, the meetings may be more frequent but also more businesslike and less discursive, as befits writing a thesis to a deadline.

There is no single correct type of relationship: whether and how the supervisory relationship works effectively depends very much on the individuals involved. Within this fluidity however, the key moral is that you should learn to manage your supervisor. To do this, there are certain issues that you might usefully bear in mind; all revolve, appropriately enough for research in social science, around the role of communication:

  • Be active in arranging meetings.
  • Frame ideas and issues for discussion so as to ensure that you derive maximum benefit from the meetings.
  • You may wish to have a written record of the discussion at each meeting (e.g. by taking notes and/or having a follow up on major points by email).
  • Always go into a meeting with your supervisor with a clear idea of what you want to gain from the meeting (a formal or informal agenda), and leave it with an equally clear idea of whether you have achieved what you wanted, and that you have understood what your supervisor would like you to do.

Please try to keep appointments, and ensure that if any arrangements have been made for written work to be handed in before the meeting, that you adhere to them. If you must break an appointment, please give your supervisor as much notice as you can; your supervisor will do the same. You and your supervisor should work out which style of working works best for you and what you can expect from each other.

If you have any problems with your supervisor, it is best in the first instance for you to raise the issue yourself with your supervisor. If this is not possible, or you feel that the communication with your supervisor has broken down, the MRes/PhD Programme Director| will resolve the matter.

At the end of each academic year, both student and supervisor are required to complete a report on progress and to discuss any issues that arise from it. The form for this report is distributed in the Summer Term and forms the basis of the decision of the MRes/PhD Programme Director| and the Graduate Studies Committee|, about continued registration on the PhD Programme.

Changing your Research Supervisor

As your research interests progress there may come a time at which you want to change supervisors. You are free to change your supervisor for this or any other reason, without worrying about offending your existing supervisor. It is best if you (possibly with the help of your current supervisor) can arrange a new supervisor yourself but the PhD Programme Director is always available to assist you.

Sometimes your supervisor may not be suitable for overseeing a particular part of your research and you feel you need to approach a faculty member with specialist knowledge in a different area from your supervisor. You should feel quite free to approach any member of the faculty who you think can help you. However, you should recognise that they probably have students of their own to supervise and therefore may not be able to give you as much attention as your regular supervisor would. Keep in mind that a judicious choice of advisor or co-supervisor may often ensure the best supervision if your research cuts across different areas.

The LSE does not allow students to be supervised by faculty who are away from the LSE on leave. When a supervisor is going on leave, an alternative supervisor will be found, typically the current advisor or co-supervisor. Often the original supervisor will still be willing to read and supervise your work; however, it is still necessary that a supervisor based at LSE also be allocated.

Any change of supervisor should be notified immediately to the MRes/PhD Programme Manager|.

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