Supervisory Best Practices

It is important to understand your role as a supervisor to successfully mentor graduate students in their academic endeavours. As there are varying pedagogies of supervision, this outline has been created to support both supervisors and graduate students in coming to a mutual understanding of their role, relationship, and responsibility to each other.


As the number of graduate programs at Brock expand, so are the number of highly qualified students. These students come from varying racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Gender, disability, sexual orientation and class differences may also be present in the supervisory relationship and it is therefore important to understand these differences and the role that they may play in your relationship.


Communication is the most important piece of your supervisory relationship. As students are usually in a vulnerable position in the relationship, this makes it extremely important for the supervisor to effectively communicate with the graduate student regarding roles. To effectively communicate, your expectations of the graduate student, as well as their expectations of you, should be identified as one of the first steps in working together.

Power Dynamics- The CHYS department flourishes off its relationship with graduate students as colleagues. Through this, our graduate students are an essential component to the success of our program. As there are newer shifts in understanding the supervisory relationship, there is a push to move away from the traditional models of supervision including models of “…domination and disempowerment (Taylor & Dawson, 2010), expert and disciple, and/or master and apprentice “(Hemer, 2012, as cited in Breunig & Penner, 2016). Equalizing power dynamics is key to student/supervisor relationship success (Breunig & Penner, 2016).


Joint efforts in publishing are often pursued and it is therefore important to understand your role, rights and responsibilities in the publishing process.

Authorship– As Fine and Kurdek (1993) outline, Section 6.23, Publication Credit, states

  • Psychologists take responsibility and credit, including authorship credit, only for work they have actually performed or to which they have contributed.
  • Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals involved, regardless of their relative status. Mere possession of an institutional position, such as Department Chair, does not justify authorship credit. Minor contributions to the research or to the writing for publication are appropriately acknowledged, such as in footnotes or in an introductory statement.
  • A student is usually listed as principal author on any multiple-authored article that is based primarily on the student’s dissertation or thesis. (p.1142)

Having both the supervisor and the student understand their rights in regard to publishing will help to eliminate any unnecessary disagreements about authorship. If any such issues arise, students should discuss these matters with the GPD (or Department Chair if the GPD and supervisor are one in the same).

For more information regarding rights on authorship in publications with graduate students, please read Fine and Kurdek (1993).

Data Ownership is another area grey area. Depending on different situations and scenarios, there can be questions regarding storage, personal use, public versus private sector research, etc. For more information regarding data ownership best practices, please consult:

Conflict Resolution

 A graduate student should seek conflict resolution as soon as possible. If you experience any emerging problems in the supervisory relationship, you should try to discuss these with your supervisor as early as possible. If you feel uncomfortable talking directly to your supervisor about these issues, you should contact the Graduate Program Director. Remember that issues are usually easily resolved if addressed early. If your supervisor is also the GPD, then the Chair must step in to assist.

Supervisor Expectations

-demonstrate the highest professional standards of research and scholarship through promoting an environment that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally supportive, safe, and free of harassment

-provide guidance and support in all phases of students research

-meet consistently with student and be easily accessible to student

-provide timely feedback on students work including drafts of thesis

-clarify expectations related to both your role as a supervisor and your expectations for the student; include discussion around authorship, publications, and conference presentations

Tips on how to be an effective supervisor 

Be open and available. Graduate students often claim that having accessibility to their supervisor and being able to meet regularly has a huge impact on their success. Work out a schedule with your student (s) to set up regular meetings. If in person meetings cannot happen, ensure to provide other channels for communication (e.g., phone calls, Skype).

Be flexible. No two supervisor and student pair are the same. The way you communicate with each other is going to be different than the way that you communicate with others as everyone has their own learning style, and skill sets. Being cognizant of these differences will allow you both to be flexible in your relationship.

Be supportive. Helping support your student(s) goes a long way. The student(s) must feel that their supervisor is there to support them in every step. Support for the student(s) can also be given in written work via constructive feedback that not only highlights some areas for improvement, but also positively encourages the areas that have been done right.

Be respectful. Students and advisors alike both reported that working together in a mutually respectful environment was one of the most important factors in determining the success of their relationship (Skarakis-Doyle & McIntyre, 2008). Without respect, one cannot to be supportive to the other. Being respectful will help both the student and the supervisor gain trust for the other, which will assist the relationship in moving forward and ensuring the progression of the student through the program.

Be committed. The role of a supervisor is to mentor the graduate student which at times, can be a lot of work. Ensure that you are committed to the success of your student(s) and that they know this. Part of being committed also includes knowing what is going on in various aspects of your student(s) academic journey and being able to respond to their needs. This can include (but is not limited to) knowledge of services that can assist your student(s), being aware of the departmental and larger Faculty focused events, socials and functions, and knowledge of the greater University-wide policies and procedures that pertain to graduate students and graduate supervision.

Faculty should also visit additional resources for more information provided by the Faculty of Graduate Studies which can be accessed through logging in to their Microsoft Account and accessing Sharepoint.

Student Expectations

-the graduate student has the primary responsibility for successful completion of his or her degree

-be aware of student rules and regulations as outlined in the Graduate Calendar (Graduate Students Rights and Responsibilities)

-understand program requirements and program deadlines, including the submission of progress reports

-communicate with your supervisor regarding any expectations you may have of them

-know your rights as they relate to publishing your work (see above)

-maintain a high level of professionalism, self-motivation, engagement, excellence, scholarly curiosity, and ethical standard

-attend CHYS colloquium seminar series

-submit required documentation on time (e.g., progress reports, scholarship applications, travel reimbursement claims, etc.)

Tips for Students

As important as it is for the supervisor to be committed and supportive of you and your academic journey, you too must be supportive and committed to the relationship with your supervisor and your studies. Be knowledgeable regarding the policies and procedures for graduate students that have been laid out by your program, Faculty, Graduate Studies and the University. Be aware of the programs schedule including deadlines, milestones and thesis/dissertation progression.

Be organized. Develop a research plan and commit to it. Your plan should be developed in consultation with your advisor and your committee. Encourage your advisor to have regular meetings so that you can stay on top of your work and stay committed to your plan. Having regular meetings will also be beneficial so that you can receive feedback continuously on your work, which will help you stay committed to your plan.

Communicate clearly. Be sure to communicate with your supervisor your expectations of them and of yourself. This way, you can both work towards the same goals and this will also help to reduce conflicts. Always be open and honest with your supervisor (and committee) and let them know of any serious issues that may be affecting your studies. Be sure to communicate in a timely manner with your supervisor and Graduate program director.

Be open. In some cases, your supervisor may recommend that you read something distinct, incorporate a different measure, analyze data a certain way or run a different test. While this may be frustrating, trust the process and embrace the challenge. Some of the best research comes out of projects where students have been challenged in ways that they did not think possible.

Get involved. Familiarize yourself with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Students Association. They offer a variety of lectures, events and professional development opportunities.

References/University Guides

 Breunig, M., & Penner, J. (2016). Relationship Matters: Duo-narrating a Graduate Student/Supervisor Journey. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 4(6). 18-27.

Fine, M. A., & Kurdek, L. A. (1993). Reflections on Determining Authorship Credit and Authorship Order on Faculty-Student Collaborations. American Psychologist. 48(11). 1141-1147.

Skarakis-Doyle, E. & McIntyre, G. (2008). Western Guide to Graduate Supervision. The University of Western Ontario Teaching Support Centre. Retrieved from:

Wisker, G. (2005). The Good Supervisor. Supervising Postgraduate and Undergraduate Research for Doctoral Theses and Dissertations. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

University Guides


University of Toronto:

University of Toronto:

University of Illinois- Data Ownership: