What is this about?

Supervision involves organizing, monitoring and directing activities or, in other words, oversight and leadership (1-3). In academia, supervision refers to guidance of an undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate student in their research, while providing knowledge and support (4).

Why is this important?

The quality and success of postgraduate research is supported by effective supervision (5). A good supervisor plays a crucial role in the overall experience, satisfaction, retention, and completion of postgraduate students (6). Prevalence of depression, feelings of inadequacy and impostor syndrome are high in postgraduate students and academics in general (7), and supervisors are such an important piece of the PhD journey that they often play a crucial role in development of those for doctoral students (8,9).

For whom is this important?

Students, PhD Students, Scientists, Researchers, Health care professionals, Supervisors, Junior researchers, Senior researchers

What are the best practices?

A review from 2010 (10) defines three models of supervision:

  • a traditional model, a dyadic relationship between a supervisor and a student;
  • a group supervision, in which there is a relationship between a student and a supervisor, as well as a student and other students, and
  • a mixed model, which incorporates the two models and adds new technologies, such as online courses and teleconferences.

There is a guide for supervision of doctoral students in healthcare that defines the roles and requirements for a supervisor (11). Some of those include clarifying the students’ purpose, understanding the student and their context, guiding them methodologically, intellectually and administratively, facilitating their communication and later on, introducing them to the scholarly community.


  1. Definition of Supervision. Merriam-Webster. 2019 [cited 24 May 2019]. Available from:
  2. Supervision. Thesaurus. 2019 [cited 24 May 2019]. Available from:
  3. University of Nottingham Quality Manual: Responsibilities of the Supervisor. [cited 24 May 2019]. Available from:
  4. Firoz A, Quamrul A, Rasul M. A Pilot Study on Postgraduate Supervision. Procedia Engineering. 2013. 56. 875-881. 10.1016/j.proeng.2013.03.210.
  5. Heyns T, Bresser P, Buys T, Coetzee I, Korkie E, White Z et al. Twelve tips for supervisors to move towards person-centered research supervision in health care sciences. Med Teach. 2019 Jan 14:1-6.
  6. Mental health problems among PhD students. Marie Curie Alumni Association. [cited 24 May 2019]. Available from:
  7. Ruben A. Thesis adviser horror stories. Science AAAS. 2015 [cited 24 May 2019]. Available from: F. PhD supervisor-student relationship. J Adv Med Educ Prof. 2017 Oct; 5(4): 220–221.
  8. McCallin A, Nayar S. Postgraduate research supervision: a critical review of current practice. Teaching in Higher Education. 2012. 17:1, 63-74.
  9. van Schalkwyk SC, Murdoch-Eaton D, Tekian A, van der Vleuten C, Cilliers F. The supervisor's toolkit: A framework for doctoral supervision in health professions education: AMEE Guide No. 104. Med Teach. 2016 May;38(5):429-42.

Ružica Tokalić contributed to this theme.

Latest contribution was May 29, 2019