Your relationship with your supervisor can be a deal-breaker in the academic world – that is, it can take your work up to the next level of success or it can prevent even your best work from getting its due credit. But how can that be? Isn’t the work you produce more important than the relationships you maintain?
The truth is, it is just as significant to ensure that you and your supervisor agree to the various aspects of research. Especially if you are looking to complete your PhD in a happy, healthy frame of mind, as opposed to embodying the stereotype of the frantic academic, it will be beneficial to you to nurture your relationship with your supervisor.
The job of your supervisor is to give you feedback on your research and writing. The problem arises when you and your supervisor, or, in some cases, you and a committee of supervisors, are not on the same page.
You may be one of those prolific writers who get a good start at the beginning. You send in pages and pages of work you have already done, and your supervisors respond to your enthusiasm with their own barrage of feedback. Both parties in this case had good intentions to begin with. However, there are high chances of miscommunication here. After your impressive first run, you find yourself faltering and halting. You don’t know what to do next, and the supervisors’ help, instead of helping you, is overwhelming you. Somewhere along the exchange of information and feedback, the main idea got lost. You need to stop sending your new work to supervisors for some time, and instead brainstorm and outline. If you send in pages of writing, you will get feedback on the writing – this includes technicalities that don’t really further your idea.
It is also possible that you may be one of those procrastinators who aren’t that productive in the beginning. You know what you have to do, and you know how to go about doing it as well, but you just can’t get yourself to do it until the pressure is turned up high. There are many people who work like this. If it’s not a problem for you then there is no requirement to change it; but, it can result in miscommunications with your supervisor. Many students feel that before contacting their supervisor, they need to have some work to show. The procrastinators will not have any “work,” and may avoid contact altogether. This is where things go bad. You should always keep in touch with your supervisor. Don’t let more than a week – or maximum, 2 weeks – go by without exchanging at least an email. Even if you don’t have any work to show, tell your supervisors about ideas you have been thinking about, directions you want to take your research – abstract brainstorming that doesn’t fit neatly into a word processor, but is still essential to your thesis. If you stay in touch with your supervisor, it will be easier to get their help when you really do need it.