How to pick a great supervisor

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Prior to becoming an academic, after a series of jobs with terrible managers, I had a job interview in the office of someone who had books about management on her shelf. She really thought about how to be a good manager, and she was, as I found out. I’m sure this isn’t a foolproof way to pick a boss, but it worked for me! I don’t think you can just be a good PhD supervisor, just as it’s pretty unlikely you could just be a good teacher, without thinking deeply about how theory and practice work together.

So what books do I have on my bookshelf, or saved on my computer, about doctoral supervision? Actually, this would be a good question for students interviewing a potential supervisor: what’s your favourite book on doctoral supervision? Mine is Helping doctoral students write: Pedagogies for supervision, by Barbara Kamler and Pat Thomson (Routledge, 2014). I read this book as a PhD student, in an earlier edition, and it was like having these two very experienced and insightful supervisors added to my supervisory panel! I love how this book describes the identity work of becoming an academic, rather than taking a box-ticking approach to thesis requirements. What would your answer be, if a student asked you this question? I look forward to expanding my library!

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Author: Lucinda McKnight

Dr Lucinda McKnight is a lecturer in curriculum and pedagogy at Deakin University. She has a BA in Fine Arts, Women's Studies and English from the University of Melbourne, an MA (Distinction) in Media, Culture and Communication, from the Institute of Education now at UCL, and a PhD in Education from Deakin University. Her cartoons have appeared in a number of publications, including Farrago and Health Voice. She has exhibited her artwork at Museum Victoria and the Victorian College of the Arts.

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