'Supervising Doctoral Studies' Online Course for Supervisors

A supervisor speaking to their studentAbout the course

With a streamlined, modular approach, Supervising Doctoral Studies provides flexible, engaging training to equip both new and more experienced research supervisors with the knowledge, skills, and understanding that are vital to effectively support doctoral candidates’ development into independent researchers.

The programme delivers comprehensive, professional training in the most effective and up-to-date supervisory techniques to ensure the best possible environment and outcomes for doctoral candidates, using video interviews, case studies, and scenario-based activities to highlight best practice across all major disciplines and encourage supervisors to reflect on their practices.

This edition addresses new and emerging developments in doctoral supervision, including the widespread adoption of structured training programmes, the focus on developing respectful supervisory relationships, the increasing diversity of the candidate population and modes of study, and recognition of the challenges relating to mental health and wellbeing that can be experienced by candidates, to ensure that supervisors are aware of the wider context and purpose of their work, and are able to navigate both academic and non-academic responsibilities.

This course is free and available to all PhD supervisors at the University of Sheffield.

Members of staff who have formal responsibilities as a PhD supervisor, but have not yet successfully supervised a student to completion as a primary supervisor, are required to complete the modules entitled The Doctoral Context and Supporting your Candidate, alongside 10 hours of synchronous webinars (see this page on mandatory supervisor CPD for more details).

Accessing the course

To access the course, you will need to obtain a 'token' (a login code) from your Faculty Graduate School Manager. Then follow the instructions below:

  1. Visit the following link: https://courses.epigeum.com/register
  2. Complete the registration form – IMPORTANT – you must use the following email domain: @sheffield.ac.uk. Supervisors in the Faculty of MDH will also be able to use @ed.ac.uk, @nhs.net, and @sth.nhs.uk.
  3. Enter your faculty token in the relevant field of the registration form.
  4. You will be sent an account activation email to the email address you entered during registration. Please click on the link in the activation email to complete registration and activate your account. NOTE: If you do not receive the email in your inbox, please check your SPAM/junk mail. You can also resend the activation email via this link.
  5. Once you have activated your account, you can then log in using your chosen username and password combination. You will be shown the Epigeum SDS programme in the My Courses screen (if you did not enter the token during registration, or wish to enter a second token, please use the Enter Token button in the user menu).
  6. Click on the programme to see a list of available modules, and on a specific module title to launch it.
  7. If you require further assistance, please see the help page or contact the Epigeum customer support team via this webform.

Complimentary Resources and Links

'Supervising Doctoral Studies' has been designed for universities across the UK and Australasia. To compliment this online course, please find below a range of useful resources and links that expand on the content of individual modules and offer more information on policies, procedures, and support for supervisors and PGRs at the University of Sheffield.

For comprehensive guidance on the regulations of doctoral study at the University, please see the Code of Practice For Research Degree Programmes 20/21.

1. Introduction: The Doctoral Context

The Evolution of the Contemporary Doctorate

For more information on the types of research degrees offered at the University of Sheffield, see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 5.

What Makes an Effective Supervisor?

The Supervisionaries seminar series is open to all PhD supervisors and offers a range of sessions covering different topics relating to PhD supervision. Find out more here.

Strategies for Success: Pedagogical Approaches and Supervisory Styles

For detailed guidance on the roles and responsibilities of PhD supervisors and students, see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 29-30 or this web page.

There is a dedicated SuperVisionaries workshop that focuses on setting boundaries and managing expectations called 'Supervising New PGRs: Setting up the Partnership'. Find out more here.

Doctoral Frameworks and Regulations

Regulations and detailed guidance on doctoral degree programmes can be found in the Code of Practice 20/21, which can be downloaded here, or accessed via the Code of Practice web pages.

2. Attracting and Selecting Doctoral Applicants

What Unconscious Biases Might you Have?

ED&I training is mandatory for all staff and PGRs. Details are available here.

3. Research Cultures and Environments

Research Culture

To learn more about research culture at our institution, you can read about our commitment to implementing the principles of the Concordat to support the development of researchers and healthy research cultures.

You can also find out how we work to ensure the integrity of research undertaken at the University and train research students and staff in order to uphold these standards. Ethics training is mandatory for PGRs and this is arranged within faculties/departments.

Creating Inclusive Cultures and Environments

Find out more information about the ways in which our institution promotes equality, diversity, and inclusion here. The web pages feature information on events and training opportunities that focus on topics including bias and inclusion, as mentioned on this screen in the 'Supervising Doctoral Studies' course.

Supervisors should note that the University has introduced ED&I training which is mandatory for staff and PGRs.

Find out more about how the University supports the wellbeing of PGRs via the Student Wellbeing Service. Researcher-led support networks are also open to PGRs, which include the ECR Womens' Network, the Parent PGR Network, the Disabled & Ill Researchers' Network, the Emotionally Demanding Research Network, and more.

The Disability and Dyslexia Support Service (DDSS) supports students (including PGRs) in accessing their studies and University services. Students and/or their supervisors can contact the team for advice.

4. Managing Expectations,  Responsibilities, and Relationships

Supervisor and Candidate Responsibilities

For detailed guidance on supervisor and candidate responsibilites, please see the Code of Practice 20/21, pp. 28-31. Further information on supervisor responsibilities is also available.

Aligning Expectations Throughout the Candidacy

There is a reference in one of the video interviews on this page to the use of professional editors. Please note the University's official policy on this issue is as follows: 'Anyone [other than a member of the supervisory team] who may be employed or engaged to proofread the text is only permitted to change spelling and grammar and must not be able to change the content of the thesis.’ See the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 37 for further details.

5. Planning and Conducting Research

Managing the Candidate, the Project, and the Time

Number 7 on the chart on this screen refers to the use of professional editors. Please note that the University's official policy on this issue is as follows: 'Anyone [other than a member of the supervisory team] who may be employed or engaged to proofread the text is only permitted to change spelling and grammar and must not be able to change the content of the thesis.’ See the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 37 for further details.

Doctoral outputs for Examination

The Code of Practice 20/21 details further information and specifications on doctoral outputs on pp. 38-39. Further information on thesis formats is also available.

Research Governance

More information on research ethics and integrity, as well as the University's GRIP policy, is available here.

Please note that Ethics and Integrity training is mandatory for all PGRs. This is arranged within faculties/departments.

6. Developing the Researcher and Enabling Progress

Analysis of Training Needs and Personal Development Plans

It is a mandatory requirement that PGRs complete a Training Needs Analysis (TNA) and submit it for review every year. Further details and links to forms can be found on this web page. There is also a workshop available for PhD supervisors that offers further information on the TNA and the personal development of PGRs.

Good Practices for Monitoring Candidature

The Code of Practice 20/21 pp. 33-34 details further information on monitoring progress and milestones. There is also a workshop for supervisors on facilitating the progress of PGRs.

For information on changes to students' status, see the Code of Practice 20/21 pp. 10-18 or this web page.

For further information on research ethics and integrity and the University's GRIP policy (Good Research and Innovation Practices), click here.

Students who are struggling writh academic writing can seek support from the English Language Teaching Centre (ELTC) through the Writing Advisory Service. This service supports students whose first language is English as well as students whose first language is not English.

English language support can be found at the ELTC.

301 Academic Skills Centre offers a wide range of workshops which are open to PGRs.

PGRs can access a wealth of health and wellbeing services at the University.

The contact details for the International Student Support team can be found here.

Conducting Supervisory Meetings

Institutional policy on keeping records of supervisory meetings can be found in the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 27 and on this web page.

7. Doctoral Writing and Effective Feedback

Research Writing and Supervisor Responsibilities

For more information on a supervisor's responsibilities in relation to thesis writing, see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 37.

The University has a range of writing support services and programmes in place. The ELTC Writing Advisory Service offers 1:1 support for PGRs whose first language is English, as well as those whose first language is not English. Think Ahead runs regular virtual writing retreats that are open to PGRs, including sessions specifically for thesis writers. Final year PGRs can take part in Think Ahead's Thesis Mentoring programme to help ensure timely submission.

Editing Practices: Roles and Responsibilities

For acceptable editing practices, please see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 37.

Supporting Communication and Dissemination of Research

For co-authoring policies at our institution, click here.

8. Supporting your Candidate

Personal Support for Candidates

All student support services are open to PGRs. Supervisors and PGRs can find ot more about the support available for students at the University on these web pages.

The Disability and Dyslexia Support Service is open to PGRs. Further information and contact details can be found here.

The University Library offers further support and training for PGRs that can be viewed here.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

All student mental health and wellbeing services are open to PGRs. This includes the University Health Service, SAMHS and the Counselling Service, and the Student Wellbeing Service. Each of these services differs in their offering, so do encourage students to assess which one(s) will suit their needs.

For detailed information on Leave of Absence procedures see the Code of Practice 20/21 pp. 13-15. Further information and relevant forms can be found on the Leave of Absence web page.

The SuperVisionaries seminar series offers a session that focuses on PGR mental health and wellbeing, which includes discussions on Leave of Absence procedures.

Looking After your Own Wellbeing

For further information on staff wellbeing, including our staff counselling and support helpline, please read the staff wellbeing web pages.

Professional Support for Candidates

There is a wide range of provision that supports the professional development of PGRs. This includes Think Ahead (for professional development), the University Library (for research and data management skills), the English Language Teaching Centre (for support with language and writing), the Careers Service, and Elevate (see the Sheffield Teaching Assistant workshops page for PGRs that teach).

How to Support Candidates Who Teach

For detailed information on the role of Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs), including important guidance for PGRs on visas, please see the GTA web page.

As mentioned above, Elevate offers 'Sheffield Teaching Assistant' workshops that are designed for PGRs who want to develop their skills in HE teaching. These workshops also form part of a structured pathway towards recognition as an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Association (HEA). Find out more about this opportunity here.

Faculties and departments may have their own provision for the training of GTAs. Contact your deprtmental PGR director or administrator for further information.

Supporting Career Development

The Careers Service offers a wealth of support and services for PGRs including 1:1 appointments tailored for PGR support, funding opportunities, workshops, events, and online resources.

9. Preparing for Completion and Examination

Understanding your Institution's Doctoral Submission Regulations

For details and guidance on the submission procedure, see the Code of Practice 20/21 pp. 37-43 or this web page.

Finalising the Written Submission

Please see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 42 or this web page for guidance on submitting the thesis for plagiarism checks via Turnitin. Note that the thesis submitted to Turnitin must be an exact copy of the thesis submitted for examination. This means that it should be done much closer to the final submission than the three months suggested on the online course page. Students should contact their departmental/school PGR administrator for information on the procedures to be followed when submitting the final copy of their thesis through Turnitin.

Declaring the student’s ‘intention to submit’ is not a requirement at the University of Sheffield. Please see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 37 for further information on proofreading and what this may constitute. Note that the supervisory team can proofread the text, and anyone else who may be employed or engaged to proofread the text is only permitted to change spelling and grammar and must not be able to change the content of the thesis.

Discussing and Nominating Potential Examiners

Please see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 44 for more information on appointing examiners at our institution, including what consitutes a conflict of interest. Further information and guidance, including relevant forms, can be found here.

How will the Submission be Assessed?

Please see Code of Practice 20/21 pp. 45-47 for information on how the oral examination should be conducted and possible outcomes for students. Further information can be found on the Code of Practice web pages.

The Oral Component of the Examination

Please see the Code of Practice 20/21 pp. 45-47 for information on how the oral examination should be conducted and possible outcomes for students. This can also be found on the Code of Practice web pages.

Further information on the requirements of remote vivas can be found on this web page, including the video-conference approval form and conduct guidelines.

Think Ahead offers final-year PhD students the opportunity to take part in Viva Survivor, which is an interactive workshop designed to help prepare PGRs for their viva. Students are informed directly about this. The workshop complements support offered by students' supervisors and departments.

The supervisor should ensure that the student understands the procedures for the submission and examination of the thesis and should assist the student in preparing for the oral examination, including offering a mock viva (see the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 31).

Please see p. 44 of the Code of Practice 20/21 for more information on appointing internal coordinators.

Application

It is the supervisor’s responsibility to nominate suitable examiners with appropriate subject expertise and experience well in advance of the student submitting their thesis. See the Code of Practice 20/21 p. 44 or this web page.

10. Developing your Supervisory Practice

Continuing Professional Development for Experienced Supervisors

Institutional workshops and supervisor forums: The SuperVisionaries seminar series is open to all PhD supervisors, as well as staff on teaching and/or research contracts who want to learn more about PhD supervision. Experienced supervisors are very welcome to attend. Find out more and register here.

Reward and Recognition

You can apply for recognition from the Higher Education Association (HEA) based on the work you have undertaken as a PhD supervisor. Find out more by visiting Elevate’s web pages.

Every summer the Think Ahead team invites PGRs to nominate their PhD supervisor as a 'supervisionary' as part of the SuperVisionaries: Name and Acclaim campaign. PGRs submit testimonials on the positive effect their supervisors (or another member of staff) has had on their PhD experience. All testimonials can be seen on this web page.