Meetings with your supervisors

Gepubliceerd op 17 november 2023 om 12:00

It is time for a new blog-on-request! A brand-new PhD student asked us how you should structure the meetings with your supervising team. Let us start by stating that you, naturally, have to coordinate this with your own supervisors, because not everyone will do this the same way. However, there are some general tips we can share with you.


Tip 1: Timely make an agenda

This is stating the obvious a little bit: but always make an agenda with the points you want to discuss and send it around in advance. That way, everyone has a clear notion of what will be discussed during the meeting and your supervisors are also able to add agenda items themselves. If your supervisors need to read things in advance, make sure that you send these along with the agenda in time. Also point this out to them in your accompanying e-mail. It will take your supervisors a bit more preparation time, so they can schedule this time in advance.

Tip 2: Distinguish between decisions and discussions

While making your agenda, make a distinction between the discussion points, such as informing your promotion team about the progress of recruitment for your research, and the matters on which you really have to make a decision together, such as which in- and exclusion criteria you want to use for your research. If you have not made a decision, you won't be able to proceed with this part of your research until your next meeting, so make sure these are not the last points on your agenda.


Tip 3: Prepare decision points well

As a PhD student, it is your job to do most of the research for the decision points. For example, if you need to make a decision about which analysis to use, research what the different options are. Make an overview of the options and indicate what the advantages and disadvantages are of each option, so that you can discuss this concretely during your meeting. Should you already have a preference for a particular option based on your research, you can make your argument right away during the meeting. As you progress in your PhD program, you will find that the latter will occur more and more often.

Tip 4: Take minutes (and also logbook)

During the meeting, you will naturally take notes of what is discussed. Work these into neat minutes and send them to your supervising team, so everyone can always refer to this information. It is especially important to write down on the basis of which arguments you have made certain decisions. By keeping good records, you create a kind of log book for yourself, that will help you recall why you made certain choices later on. This is useful when, for example, you receive questions from reviewers, but also when you are preparing your dissertation defence. By the end of your fourth year, it is guaranteed that you do not remember all the details of every decision you have made for your very first paper anymore!


Tip 5: Schedule a series of appointments at once

Time flies and the agendas of your supervising team will likely rapidly fill with appointments. Make sure you schedule a set day and time for your meetings, say every two to four weeks, because as a researcher-in-training you are entitled to receiving supervision. Scheduling a series of meetings will help you keep up the momentum (and keep your supervisors properly ‘hooked’ onto your project). Cancelling a standing appointment once the process is well underway is a better option than having to wait weeks for a meeting, because there is no more room for you in the schedule of your supervisors.


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