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Graduate Studies Supervision :
Guidelines for students and professors

Graduate Council, October 1993

Supervision of student progress is crucial to all graduate programmes. It should be professional, based in mutual trust and commitment. The responsibility for achieving those conditions rests with faculty and students.

Whereas different disciplines have varying practices and individual professors may operate by various styles, the need remains for all to adhere to some guiding principles and processes. The following guidelines are seen as aids to help maintain academic quality, to defend student interests and to speed up completion of the degree.

Graduate Coordinators

Each graduate programme provides information to students regarding university, faculty and departmental (school) policies and requirements. One person is usually designated as Graduate Coordinator and acts as the main contact person for graduate students (posted outside Graduate Studies office and identified in Graduate Calendar). The Graduate Coordinator provides counselling and advice in setting up supervisory committees, academic programmes and graduate teaching assistantship duties. That person also provides information on scholarships and prizes, and he/she informs all new students of the expected completion dates.

In case thesis or programme supervisory relationships are unsatisfactory the Graduate Coordinators, or if the case involves that person, the departmental (school) chairperson, shall be consulted. If an informal consultation does not resolve problems the case shall be referred to the Dean of Graduate Studies for resolution.

Thesis Supervisor and Advisory committees

The sooner that an advisor and a committee is established for students in thesis programmes the better. The practice varies among the various fields of study but it is advisable to try to quickly establish the main persons with whom a student shall be undertaking research and writing. A thesis director and advisory committee must be established in consultation with the student before the end of the second term of the first year of any master's programme.

The advisory committee is expected to meet regularly (at least twice annually) with the student. The committee will evaluate the student's activities and progress. An annual progress report -- designed by each department (school) according to its needs and programme -- must be filed with the Dean of Graduate Studies as well as placed in the student's departmental (school) file. Having such a system in place has been shown to improve completion rates.

Supervisors' Responsibilities

The supervisor's main role is to guide the student toward the completion of an original scholarly creation. The experience, knowledge as well as intra-personal skills of the professor must be utilized to challenge, stimulate but also support the student. The supervisor can offer assistance in many ways, including criticism, availability, and contacts in the scholarly world, plus guidance to publication possibilities. However, the supervisor must also be informed enough about the subject matter and of the student's work and progress to prevent misguided forays along false paths.

Specific responsibilities of the supervisor include:

  1. being reasonably accessible for consultation; usually once a month and certainly not less than twice a term;
  2. offering quick responses to submitted work; usually chapters of theses and drafts of papers should be back to students within one week; at maximum two;
  3. calling at least two, but hopefully more frequent, meetings of the advisory committee annually and submitting a report on the student's progress;
  4. informing the student of the standards by which the external or other readers will judge theses or other written work as well as ensuring that the students' work meets those standards;
  5. helping the student with applications for funding;
  6. creating a timetable with the student for completion of the work;
  7. explaining the system for defense of thesis or major paper;
  8. coordinating the advisory committee's handling of final drafts and assuring that all are agreed regarding whether the thesis or paper is ready for oral defense;
  9. ensuring that the Graduate School deadlines are followed in conjunction with the Graduate Coordinators;
  10. adhering to the ethics surrounding intellectual property, ie acknowledging all contributions appropriately.

Responsibilities of students

Just like the professor, the student makes a commitment of time and of striving toward a professional relationship. To contribute to any field of knowledge and to do it well requires dedication, initiative and a willingness to listen.

Specific responsibilities of the student include:

  1. knowing and abiding by the rules and procedures of the programme and the university as well as the norms of the academic world. The latter include attention to quality and ethics (plagiarism);
  2. developing, in conjunction with the supervisor and the advisory committee a timetable for completion of all requirements, especially the thesis or major paper;
  3. meeting with the supervisor, normally once a month but at least twice a term;
  4. keeping the Graduate Office, the supervisor and Graduate Coordinators informed of place of residence or contact;
  5. preparing an annual progress report to be submitted to Graduate Coordinators and supervisor;
  6. seriously examining and responding to the advice offered by the supervisor and the members of the advisory committee;
  7. not unnecessarily burdening the faculty with minor questions; thinking professionally and being 'graduate-minded';
  8. reporting any kind of harassment or unsafe working conditions (to the appropriate offices) ;
  9. adhering to the strictest rules of academic honesty which means attribution of all of the work of others;

A good supervisor knows how to balance stimulation and challenges with a focus upon the crucial issues; a superb supervisor also knows when to prod and when to allow free rein. Similar attributes apply to coordinators who must monitor students in non-theses programmes.

Here is a sample Report on Progress in WP , MS Word , or Adobe PDF format which departments or schools may modify.


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