Trust Me! project: resources for doctoral supervisors

Trust Me! was a research project funded by the Leadership Foundation for HE, investigating the behaviours that are important in building trust and creating 'quality' doctoral supervision relationships. Phase one examined supervision narratives, and documented the relationship vulnerabilities and tensions; how trust is built and broken.

Throughout the project students and supervisors alike spoke of the need to achieve clarity of purpose, and find good ways of working together, seeking to make the uncertain processes of the PhD more predictable; reducing feelings of insecurity, worry and stress for all involved.

The resources below have been developed and collected in response to the findings, and are intended to be helpful to supervisors. This resource is under continuous development, linking to new resources, blog posts and articles every week. Please use the evaluation form here to let me know what you’d like to see added or created, or to signpost me to a good resource you have found.

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Supervisor blog: This space initially collected data as stories of supervisory relationships, and is now a blog designed to share research, opinions community wisdom and resources for supervisors, and about supervision. 'Community Acuity' blog posts are from supervisors, to supervisors. They share the thoughts, experiences and reflections of the highs and the challenges of supervising doctoral students.


Getting off to a Good Start (5:38): Collated in this video are some ideas about the expectation clashes that can cause tension in the student supervisor relationship. What conversations can you have up front with your students? How can you build up certainty within an uncertain process. See also this blog post. Fullscreen here.


Supervising Stressed Students (4:31): How can you recognise the symptoms of stress in those you work with, and how can you support your students in a way that doesn’t make things worse, or patronise them? What can you do 'in the moment' and over time to acknowledge stress, and help? See also this blog post. Fullscreen here.

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recognising great PhD supervision – a #SuperVisionaries approach: The research report resulting from the Trust Me! study focused on recognising how trust is built as well as how it is broken; while the negative experiences help us identify and call out trust breaking behaviours, accounts of happy and positive relationships are hugely important as a development resource, as they help supervisors, and those who develop supervisors, envision what 'good supervision relationships' look like.

So following on from this study, I have been really keen to support and celebrate good supervision, and wanted to create a way to find out about and share examples of supervision that has a positive impact on doctoral researchers.

This is an annumal call for postgraduate researchers to 'name and accaim' all those who are doing a great job.

SuperVisionaries is not competitive, there are no shortlists, and no awards — we will simply publicly name and thank all those who are having a positive impact.


Structured reflection on a difficult relationship: It’s often easier to understand with the gift of hindsight how a supervision relationship developed, what influenced the partnership, and where things went right and wrong. This is a tool that can be used as a private reflection, or as a way of structuring a conversation with a supportive colleague, mentor, coach or manager.


Recognising and building on trust at work: This is a tool that can be used as a private reflection, or as a way of structuring a conversation with a supportive colleague, mentor coach or manager. To complete this reflection, you will need to think about a colleague or colleagues, past or present, who you have trusted i.e. you were willing to rely on them, or you felt safe to reveal a weakness or vulnerability to them.

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The full Trust Me! project research report is in review and is coming soon! It covers what trust in supervision might look like, and the behaviours that build and break trust in supervision relationships. It makes some recommendations for supervisors, and for HEIs on how we can support students and supervisors to work together.

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This report examines the range and reach of the role of PGR Tutor in close detail. In particular, it uses the narratives of those who have taken up the role to document its challenges. Examples of good practice and imagined 'better ways' are combined in this study to spark the imagination of those in higher education institutions to discuss how the role can be understood, positioned, communicated, and the PGR Tutor be properly supported to achieve.


BIG QUESTIONS for Supervisors: The big questions about what 'doctorateness' is, are difficult, because there is no clear answer to them. Making some notes about your own understanding of these issues will help you discuss them with your students.


From the research: a mapping of tensions and vulnerabilities supervisors reported.


Difficult conversation planner, for Supervisors: Sometimes we all have to deliver unwelcome news, difficult feedback, or unexpected messages, and there is no easy or right way to achieve this. This conversation planner might help you think it out.


From the research: a mapping of tensions and vulnerabilities students reported.