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Matching of expectations

Matching of expectations between the PhD student and supervisor(s) on the course of the supervision.

Immediately after the beginning of the PhD programme, the main supervisor will call the PhD student and co-supervisor(s), if any, to a meeting on matching of expectations. The goal of the matching of expectations is:

- to secure a good and quick start on the programme
- to secure a precise and sufficient mutual information on practical issues and about the completion of the project.
- to prohibit delays and drop-out, which can be attributed to the difference in expectations to the completion of the project.

How to....

Below, there is a list of suggested subjects that can be discussed at a matching of expectations-meeting. The PhD student and the main supervisor determine which of the subjects are relevant as a basis for concrete agreements.

After the meeting, the PhD student should write a short summary that is sent to the main supervisor

Topics for discussion:

  • Supervision meetings - Supervision in relation to text production - The role of supervisor and authorship
  • Graduate programme, research environment and institutional activities - Working hours - Facilities and finances
  • Study period abroad and change of environments - Development of networks and participation in conferences
  • Teaching, supervision and exam - Other knowledge disseminations
  • Project plan and mile stones - Career planning

1.1 Supervision meetings

  • Agree on the frequency of meetings and make a meeting calendar
  • Agree on formalities regarding notice of meetings, agenda, minutes and mailing of enclosures.

The main supervisor is obligated to have meetings with the student on a regular basis. In consideration for the overall busyness it is a good idea to make a meeting calendar with fixed meetings. Regarding frequency of meetings, this should be considered in proportion to the different fases of the project just as the the fases each decides when and to what extent the co-supervisors attend the meetings.

It will be suitable for the student to set the agenda and call the meetings, and that you agree on deadlines for the calling, so that the supervisors will have a chance to go through the enclosures (results, manuscript, outline etc.). Avoid standard agendas, be concrete and specific in relation to the goal of the meeting.

You could e.g. decide that the agreed minutes are to be written that at the end of every supervision meeting and the next meeting will be based on these minutes. The minutes will be archived by the student.

1.2 Supervision regarding text production

  • Agree on how the student and supervisor(s) is going to work with manuscripts and presentations
  • Arrange which areas the supervision should concern and deadlines for feedback

A text production consists of many fases, from disposition and outline to finished, well worked-out text suggestions. The need for feedback in these fases is individual and varies over time, and a continuous dialogue between student and supervisor is necessary. Every time a text is forwarded, it is important that the student informs the supervisor of what elements he/she needs feedback on. It is equally important that the supervisor(s) tells which areas he/she will give feedback on, and the level of detail.

Always, agree on realistic deadlines for feedback on forwarded texts.

1.3 Role of supervisor and authorship

  • Agree on the distribution of roles, if there is more than one supervisor
  • Align the expectations for academic, professional and personal supervision
  • Agree on the division of authorship between the PhD student and supervisor during and potentially after the project
  • Agree on how conflicts in relation to the role of supervisor and authorship should be handled

When there are multiple supervisors, they will typically be more or less present in the different stages of the project. Delays and frustrations can be avoided if all supervisors, in due time, match their expectations of need for supervision, so that it does not collide with other tasks and stays abroad. Likewise, it is important for the supervisors internally to agree on the division of the areas each supervisor is concerned.

Discuss the expectations from both parts to the supervision: the academic (subject knowledge in the project), the professional (project planning and working method) and the personal (level of ambition and working effort)

Agree on and write down the principles of the division of and the succession in authorship, this will minimize the risk of conflicts.

2.1 Graduate programme, research environment and institutional activities

  • Make sure that the PhD student is affiliated with a graduate programme
  • Introduce the student to PhD networks, Phd Sund Club and Journal Clubs etc. in the research unit and at the institute, and discuss on the way how the student continuously presents the project in these fora
  • Agree on which other internal activities the student is expected to take part in.

A professional discussion of the project and practice of presentation and discussion will increase the quality of the final project.

2.2 Working hours

  • Align your expectations to presence in the research unit, especially if presence outside normal working hours is needed.

The student may have been used to another environment with other norms of presence. Avoid conflicts by openly discussing the existing practice and the student's view on these.


2.3 Facilities and finances

  • Enlighten the student of which facilities are available and listen to special wishes
  • Introduce the student to relevant TAP-personale (Technically administrative staff)
  • Discuss the project's financial situation and which expectations there are to the participation the student will have in obtaining research funding

Facilities concerning both office, IT and laboratory facilities as well as access to support from other groups.

It is important that the student knows which expenses the work place covers (e.g. transport) and which requirements there are for documentation etc. including special terms regarding the grant that are attached to the project.

Discuss how the student is expected to participate in obtaining research funding for own and other projects.

3.1 Research stays abroad / change of environment

  • In the beginning, agree on who is obligated to initiate the planning of research stays abroad /change of environment.
  • Time plan for arrangements and stays

It is important to clarify whether the supervisor has business partners with whom the stay is expected to be placed or if the student must suggest possible research environments. The final profit is greater if the stay is well-planned.

3.2 Development of networks and participation in conferences

  • Agree on what terms the student is involved in the supervisors network
  • Align expectations and obligation of initiative concerning participation in conferences

Development of networks take time and should not be slowed down by one party thinking that the other (supervisor/co-supervisor/student) takes care of it.

Early on, the student should know which conferences that are pivotal for the project and necessary to take part in, and to what extent the student is expected him/herself to initiate the participation in conferences etc.

4.1 Teaching, supervision and exam

  • Discuss what possibilities and wishes there are for completion of the teaching obligation

The students can have different prerequisites for and wishes to the teaching task. It is a good idea to start one's teaching career with manageable assignments! Do offer the student pedagogical courses if needed.

The teaching obligation can be covered both by common teaching including exam, supervision (bachelor projects) and other teaching-related tasks (e.g. development work)

4.2 Other knowledge dissemination

  • Align your expectations to other knowledge dissemination

Depending on the character of the project, it can be relevant with knowledge dissemination to e.g. other groups of staff, patient associations, schools, parents, authorities, media etc. Agree on who comments on what and the extent of these tasks

5.1 Project plan and mile stones

  • What should the project plan contain?
  • How will the follow-up and adjustment happen?

The project plan can be more or less detailed but should always contain a timeplan consisting of mile stones for the fases of the project, course periods, conferences, research stays and upcoming publications, if any.

It is very rare that one is able to follow the original project plan, it should be adjusted - not ditched - gradually as the project progresses and new ideas and unexpected conditions occur. This will be convenient in connection with the half-yearly reporting.

5.2 Career planning

  • Expectations/wished for a future career - what are the possibilities?

Today, PhD students are employed in many different types of jobs - not exclusively as associate professors or post. docs at universities. Therefore, an ongoing dialogue about expectations and possibilities is very important in preparation for improving the research application, establish the proper networks and being attentive toward possible jobs on and outside the universities.

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