Selection, Evaluation and Supervision

Sid Bourke & Allyson P. Holbrook (2013) Examining PhD and research
masters theses, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 38:4, 407-416..

The research questions in this study address firstly whether PhD and research
masters theses were treated by examiners as qualitatively different on 12 indicators of importance across the areas: contribution of the thesis, the literature review, approach and methodology, analyses and results and presentation. Secondly what was the examiner assessment of quality of a recently examined thesis on the same indicators and, finally, how well the indicators were reflected in a holistic assessment of thesis quality. The work reported here draws on the responses of 353 PhD and 74 research masters thesis examiners. The 12 specific quality indicators, individually and collectively were strongly related to the holistic assessment of thesis quality, particularly at the PhD level.Bourke & Holbrook – Examining PhD and research masters theses

Alam, Alam & Rasul (2013) A pilot study on postgraduate supervision. Procedia Engineering 56 ( 2013 ) 875 – 881.

The primary objective of this work is to undertake a study on postgraduate supervision experience to provide better support for improving timely research completion, quality supervision, retention rate, student satisfaction, research environment and admini-strative support services. The research was undertaken based on questions based surveys. The study indicated ways to improve timely completion, quality thesis
writing and scientific publications. The role of the supervisor plays a crucial role to the overall satisfaction, retention and completion. (Alam e.a. Postgraduate supervision)

Devika Naidoo (2015). Understanding non-traditional PhD students habitus – implications for PhD programmes. Teaching in Higher Education; Volume 20, Issue 3, 2015, p 340 – 351.

Against the background of vast changes in doctoral education and the emergence of non-traditional doctoral programmes, this paper investigates the habitus of non-traditional PhD students at a South African university. Bourdieu’s conceptual tool of habitus informed the study. In-depth and open-ended interviews were conducted with 10 non-traditional students. Data analysis indicates non-traditional students’ complex and multifaceted habitus. Non-traditional PhD students’ dispositions and experiences include tenacious self-motivation and self-regulation in the face of severely constraining conditions, diverse epistemologies, hybrid goals, more communal orientations, perplexedness about ‘produce new knowledge’ and other requirements of the PhD, vulnerability regarding funds, complex self-change ranging from elation and affirmation to humiliation and confusion and exclusion and non-recognition at the department and faculty levels. These findings indicate greater challenges for non-traditional doctoral programmes that would respond to the academic and social needs of non-traditional students.

Cally Guerina, Heather Kerrb & Ian Greena (2015). Supervision pedagogies: narratives from the field. Teaching in Higher Education; Volume 20, Issue 1, 2015, 107-118.

In designing supervisor development programmes that are appropriate to changing research contexts, it is necessary to draw on both established best practice and emerging innovations that respond to the changing contexts of higher degree research. We undertook a narrative enquiry at an Australian university to establish a clearer understanding of the supervisory models and pedagogies currently employed by effective supervisors. Three key findings have emerged: these supervisors employ a broad range of approaches informed by their own experiences of being supervised; they place great importance on their relationships with students; and they reveal a strong awareness of their own responsibilities in actively developing the emerging researcher identities of their doctoral candidates. These aspects of supervision models should be emphasised in supervisor development programmes.

Cecile Badenhorsta, Cecilia Moloneyb, Janna Rosalesb, Jennifer  (2015). Beyond deficit: graduate student research-writing pedagogies. Teaching in Higher Education; Volume 20, Issue 1, 2015, 107-118, 1-11

Graduate writing is receiving increasing attention, particularly in contexts of diverse student bodies and widening access to universities. In many of these contexts, writing is seen as ‘a problem’ in need of fixing. Often, the problem and the solution are perceived as being solely located in notions of deficit in individuals and not in the broader embedded and sometimes invisible discourse practices. An academic literacies approach shifts the focus from the individual to broader social practices. This research project emerged out of an attempt to develop a graduate research-writing pedagogy from an academic literacies perspective. We present a detailed case study of one Masters’ student to illustrate the results of a pedagogy that moved beyond notions of deficit and support. We argue that to be successful research writers, students need to (1) become discourse analysts; (2) develop authorial voice and identity; and (3) acquire critical competence.

Terry Barretta* & Jennie Hussey (2015). Overcoming problems in doctoral writing through the use of visualisations: telling our stories. Teaching in Higher Education; Volume 20, Issue 1, 2015, 48-63.

Doctoral students experience many challenges on the long journey towards completion. Common problems include: synthesising data, working at a conceptual level, clarifying the relationship of the parts of the thesis to the whole, finding a voice and completing a viva successfully. Few authors have addressed the use of visualisations to meet these challenges. This paper focuses on the use of visualisations in doctoral writing. It presents narratives about seven ways that visualisations can help students to make breakthroughs in their writing, namely, as an organiser of the relationships of the parts of the thesis to the whole, a trigger for peer discourse, a vehicle for conceptual work, a metaphor to express key concepts, a trigger for professional development, a visual aid for the viva and as a prompt for freedrawing and freewriting.

Cotterall, Sara. (2011). Doctoral students writing: where’s the pedagogy? Teaching in Higher Education; Aug2011, Vol. 16 Issue 4, p413-425, 13p.

Writing occupies a key role in doctoral research, because it is the principal channel students use to communicate their ideas, and the basis on which their degree is awarded. Doctoral writing can, therefore, be a source of considerable anxiety. Most doctoral candidates require support and encouragement if they are to develop confidence as writers. Drawing on interviews with two international doctoral students at an Australian university, this paper examines the writing practices the students have encountered and discusses them in the light of recent research on doctoral writing pedagogy. Analysis of the students’ experiences in terms of Wenger’s ‘communities of practice’ framework suggests that this perspective fails to account adequately for the power relations that impact on the students’ learning opportunities. Examining the students’ experiences also highlights the importance of good pedagogy in supporting the development of scholarly writing in the doctorate.

Lee, Anne. (2008). How are doctoral students supervised? Concepts of doctoral research supervision. Studies in Higher Education, Jun2008, Vol. 33 Issue 3, p267-281, 15p .

Literature about doctoral supervision has concentrated on describing the ever lengthening lists of functions that must be carried out. This functional approach is necessary, but there has been little exploration of a different paradigm, a conceptual approach towards research supervision. This article, based on interviews with supervisors from a range of disciplines, aims to fill this gap. The main concepts identified are: functional – where the issue is one of project management; enculturation – where the student is encouraged to become a member of the disciplinary community; critical thinking – where the student is encouraged to question and analyse their work; emancipation – where the student is encouraged to question and develop themselves; and developing a quality relationship – where the student is enthused, inspired and cared for. Supervisors of doctoral students are also trying to reconcile the tensions between their professional role as an academic and their personal self, as well as encouraging students to move along a path towards increasing independence. The concepts are examined in the light of these tensions. Finally, the research illuminates the power of the supervisor’s own experience as a student.


Provides tips for graduate students for a successful relationship with their thesis advisor. Factors to consider when choosing a research topic; Importance of being enthusiastic about the research; Benefit of developing an ability to work independently.

McClure, J. W. (2005). Preparing a laboratory-based thesis: Chinese international research students’ experiences of supervision. Teaching in Higher Education, 10(1), 3-16.

This qualitative study examined Chinese international laboratory-based research students’ experiences of supervision during the first six to eighteen months of their candidature in Singapore. The experiences of marginalization in student/supervisory relationship identified in the study, particularly in the first six months, may very largely be understood in terms of unrealistic or unfulfilled expectations being brought to the new study context but grounded in the home culture. Negative experiences of the student/supervisory relationship were stronger in those with previous postgraduate experience. They also tended to be stronger in those who had irregular supervisory meetings and assigned stronger importance to language difficulties. The findings highlighted the fact that different students require different supervisory relationships, ranging from a high level of dependency to a high level of autonomy. Implications arising from the study inform the suggested intervention programmes that are directed to the points of tension identified in students’ experiences.

Published on website: Selected Readings on Ph.D. Supervision. Text