Supervision meetings, just like any meeting, should have an Agenda to guide the business of the meeting, and a set of Minutes that record the business of the meeting . . . and importantly . . . any ‘Actions’ that were agreed by those present.

As an independent researcher, you should set most of the Agenda – after all, the focus of the meeting should be about you and your research.  If you don’t put it on the Agenda, how will your supervisor know that this is something that you need to talk about and get guidance on ???

Good practice would be to circulate the Agenda as many days in advance of the meeting as possible – with any supplemental papers appended (e.g., draft chapter, draft survey tool).  I would recommend that at least one week . . . and probably two weeks . . . is what you should consider here.  As always, chat with your supervisor about this and see what works best for you both.

Very Important:

Whilst your research and work are of paramount importance to you and your supervisor, remember that whilst it may be your full-time job at the moment, it is only one of many jobs that your supervisor is trying hard to do – from teaching to research to administration.  Don’t just assume that their diary is so free that they will have the availability to read your work at one or two days notice.  Like any professional, make sure that you submit any work that needs to be read in a timely manner – agreed with your supervisor – so that they have a chance to schedule it in their diary.  After all, if you have worked hard on that draft chapter, don’t you want your supervisor to set aside ‘proper’ time to read it for you ???

After the meeting, you should take some time to record what was discussed and agreed at the meeting.  As soon as possible, construct a brief summary of the main points from the meeting – perhaps using the Agenda items to guide the structure.  Importantly, make sure that you record the Actions – the things that you and your supervisor agreed would be done after the meeting . . . and who is taking responsibly for that Action.


This is a useful task as it keeps both you and your supervisor ‘on the same page’.


Doing this is quite easy.  After a supervision session with one of my students, I get the Minutes and Actions as an email – not as a formal document.  This keeps the process a bit less formal and allows me to reply / agree / disagree quickly . . . so that we don’t lose time and energy.  In the email, each point is left with a couple of lines of space afterwards so that l can reply and put my comment directly under each point. An example might be useful here.  Here is a typical email with my replies in CAPITAL LETTERS below each point.  The only reason that CAPITALS are being used is to set out my replies from the query etc.



Hi Conor,

Thanks for meeting today. Here are the minutes / actions:


1. Continue reading the new material on policy from the Dept. of Education.


2. Look at previous theses that are available.


3. Conor to check my Registration Status.


4. Conor to apply for conference travel money for me.


Thanks Conor,



So, quite a straightforward exercise and keeps the communication process with your supervisor open and positive.  All relationships are built on trust and open communication – a good Agenda and follow-up set of Minutes and Actions really helps this.


Conor 🙂



Posted on 15th May, 2015. Copyright Conor Mc Guckin