Looking out for a dream PhD supervisor

3D man sitting on a pile of books

How often you’ve come across a PhD scholar happy with his/her guide? How many cheerful PhD scholars have you seen? Everyone dreams of a pleasant, helping, and dependable in short a ‘dream supervisor’ for completing the PhD degree. But let me tell you they don’t exist. The reality is that even on the rare occasions when supervisors do turn out to be masterminds, or even just very brainy in reality, they are still neither gods nor saints; more likely they are simply overworked and underpaid, and just trying to do their job which is often thankless.

Yes, you are at liberty to pass on the buck of incompletion, hypothesis getting nowhere, inadequacy of primary data, literature review going nowhere, bibliography not completed etc, etc on your supervisor. Well, till you get your PhD degree every bit that you are doing is an “Illusion.”  The relationship between a doctoral candidate and the supervisor (guide) needs some definite outline; hence I am giving this brief account based upon my experience.

Your supervisor is responsible to conduct and monitor the prescribed course activity and report its progress to the Center for Research. Some Universities have the prescribed formats of course work while many universities in the developing nations are yet to formulate it. The course work must contain topics related to how to scientifically review the literature, collecting primary data, designing the instruments to collect primary data, centering the primary data on meeting the research objectives, hypothesis of the research, and the statistical tools to validate the hypothesis. In my opinion if the research scholar has a good industry experience, has exposure to professional life then, the course work option should be left flexible.

A61A PhD usually concludes in a dissertation of around 100,000-3,00,000 words, based on research carried out over the course of study. The research must be original work which aims at creating new information or supposition in a particular area. In this case the specialized area chosen by the student. It has been observed that many Universities initially make the students go through an M.Phil program and then upgrade them to PhD status after further work on the chosen topic. Thus students who are not considered to be doing work appropriate for PhD level can instead submit a shorter thesis and gain an M.Phil.

PhD students are expected to work independently, supported by their center and a supervisor. They need to work by themselves, attend seminars, workshops to gain many insights on the chosen topic. During their study, students are expected to publish some papers/articles, present their work at conferences, which will allow them to get feedback on their ideas for their dissertation. Be critical and reflect on your work. Take some time after intervals, before final revisions rework, acknowledge the limitations of your PhD. Your final work should elevate the tone of your PhD – leave the reader in an affirmative frame of mind.  Thus, discuss with your guide why, when, how, how many – will your work bring in some change to the world?  What we see most often is statistical authentication of the hypothesis. Well your PhD has qualitative importance also.

A62What is role of a guide in PhD program?

  • Suggest and guide the research student for his dissertation on a suitable topic.
  • Guide his participation in conferences, seminars and other discussion group of relevance and for paper presentations.
  • Regularly follow up and monitor the progress made by the student in conformity with the study plan. The advent of Internet allows the guide and the student to communicate with each other through different Medias. But, meet at least once in six months personally.
  • Suggest modifications/ changes if any required in the scope of the research study necessary by the external factors to make the study meaningful and relevant.
  • Provide a quarterly progress report to the Centre for Research in the prescribed format for its review and feedback (if format is available )
  • Make valid recommendation of the study to the doctoral evaluation committee in accordance with the specific requirements as may be stipulated.
  • Recommend referees for the assessing the dissertation.
  • Thus the guide must be available for consultation, collaborate with the Research Centre for brining in the best practices for the doctoral program.  The guide’s and student’s relationship may be described as ‘normal working relationship.’ 

A63If you guide tries to become your superior, your employer, your associate, your best friend, your editor, your search engine, lends his/her shoulder to cry, is socializing with you to remove your boredom is simply crossing prescribed limits.

Your PhD supervisor is a human like you. He/she has a character. Understand personality of your supervisor. He/she may like to see regular progress reports, others may be less demanding, particularly if your supervisor is in regular contact with you keep him/her updated. Whatever the case may be, it is important for a student to meet the supervisor, sort out problems if any, avoid misapprehension and mutual disappointment if any, make the first move always. Take the first initiative and generate a good relationship with your supervisor. Do not overburden your supervisor with too many similar drafts – they will not be able to cast a fresh eye over it after the second draft. Do not burden your supervisor with trivia, discuss what is important. I want to clarify one important point here – do not assume silence from your supervisor means approval, while forgiving them for assuming that silence from your end means you are doing your work without any problems.

A65However, a PhD scholar produces a good PhD when he/she opens up new area, provides amalgamating framework, answers long-standing question, does a through exploration of an area of study, removes bias in existing knowledge, validates a theory, provides empirical data, develops new methodology, develops a new tool to a finding in short explores something new, and is a brave innovation. Remember friends – let your PhD contribute to the goodness of the society. Don’t look at it as merely a certificate.



Previous articleBeat the blues
Next articleThe sick Indian Railway needs immediate cure
A Professor with 15 years of teaching and 20 years industry experience. My core teaching areas are Marketing Strategy and General Management. While I am a Professor of Marketing and General Management, I have also worked as Director of few Management Institutes in Mumbai. I am a research guide in Mumbai University, SNDT University and YCMOU (Yashwantrao Chawan Maharashtra Open University, Nasik) 6 students have got their PhD degree under my guidance so far, and 11 students are registered for their PhD with me. Research is my passion, and I work on live projects from the industry. I strongly believe that the principal goal of research is to discover new knowledge, while that of teaching is to impart well-established knowledge and provide training in problem-solving. At present I am working as a Director for a Center of Excellence with an 80 years old Educational institution in Mumbai. I am a results-driven researcher, qualified with a PhD in Marketing Management from Pune University, a Post Doctoral Degree D.Litt from Mumbai University. I have authored above 100 articles and research which are published in news papers, business magazines and research journals. I have also authored two books. I am appointed as a Senate Member in Swami Ramanand Teertha Marathwada University, Nanded as the Maharashtra Governor’s nominee. Today we need greater industry-academia collaboration in research in institutes of higher education. I am confident that I will be able to facilitate the organizations with my research skills to create, integrate, and apply advancements in tricky areas. Thus, in my own way I could collaborate between industry and academia. I am curious, responsible, knowledgeable person with a scholarly approach.