Image of PhD supervison meeting


I have a good working professional relationship with both supervisors. Realistic objectives are set, and feedback given about written work is in a constructive and timely way.

The setting of realistic objectives and positive feedback are important as well as constructive criticism. I have found that my supervisors work well as a team and complement each other. Meeting together in one meeting works well for me – it creates an environment of collaboration between supervisions rather than competition which I like.

phd student feedback


Supervisors provide research students with personal and academic advice and direct a research project following the guidelines set out by the University. They are a research student's first point of contact with the Department if any difficulties arise during the research student programme.Supervisors are allocated by taking into account:

  • the requirements set out by a research student's funding body

  • the expertise of the member of staff

  • the research area of the research student

See our list of staff supervision interests.

The general pattern is for each student to have a primary supervisor and a second supervisor. In some cases students are given joint supervision and the main supervisory duties are shared equally. One of the joint supervisors remains nominated as a primary supervisor for administrative purposes. Supervisors (but not the primary supervisor) may sometimes be drawn from other Departments.

Where a supervisor is expected to be absent for an extended period of time (e.g. study leave or summer research projects) the PGR Team will advise students of the alternative supervisory arrangements. Most supervisors continue with supervision during study leave.

It is not possible to stipulate precisely the nature and organisation of the supervisory relationship or the roles of different types of supervisor, but the following tries to clarify areas where there may be some confusion. The definitive statement of departmental or university policy on supervision can be found in the Graduate Research Office´s Code of Practice for Research Degree Programmes For Research Students and Supervisors.

The Roles of Different Types of Supervisor

Primary supervisors

Primary supervisors are responsible (through the postgraduate team) for all communications regarding the student´s progress to their funding body, to faculty and to the course manager. The primary supervisor is responsible for scheduling meetings, commenting on drafts, and determining the overall pattern of work in negotiation with the student.

Second Supervisors

Second supervisors are responsible for providing general support and advice as appropriate (for instance on issues in their areas of specialised competence such as methodology). In the first month of registration the student should meet at least once with their second supervisor. In some instances it may be appropriate for particular supervisory sessions to involve both primary and secondary supervisors. This is a matter of negotiation between the supervisors and the student.

Formally, the second supervisor has two roles:

  • Review meetings – Once per year there should be a review meeting involving the student and primary and second supervisors. The aim of this meeting is to provide an overview of the student’s progress. At this meeting the student should provide a brief (one side of A4) summary of their progress to date.

  • Pre-final draft review – The second supervisor will read the entire draft prior to submission and, in negotiation with the primary supervisor and the student, advise on any amendments that are necessary before submission.

Joint Supervisors

We would normally expect supervision sessions to involve both supervisors. This is especially the case in the first semester. At the end of the first semester the supervisors and student should have negotiated how they want the supervision to be shared and the responsibilities of each supervisor. For instance, while it may be appropriate that both supervisors attend every supervision session and both comment on every draft, there are times when this may be neither desirable nor appropriate. There needs to be a clear understanding by all parties of their separate and shared responsibilities. It is essential that one supervisor assumes responsibility for all communications regarding the student´s progress to their funding body, to faculty and to the course manager.

I have a good working professional relationship with both supervisors. Realistic objectives are set, and feedback given about written work is in a constructive and timely way. I meet regularly (every 4weeks) and the time given to me supervision is always used for this purpose – no interruption etc.

The setting of realistic objectives and positive feedback are important as well as constructive criticism. I have found that my supervisors work well as a team and complement each other. Meeting together in one meeting works well for me – it creates an environment of collaboration between supervisions rather than competition which I like. It is important that the strengths of supervisors are matched to the particular project.

Supervision meetings

For full-time research students, we would expect supervisory meetings to be held once per month. Allowing for holidays, this would equate to a minimum of 10 supervisory sessions per year. For part-time students we would expect a minimum of six meetings per year. In the first semester of registration supervisory meetings will probably need to be more frequent and as a general rule meetings should be once every two weeks.

Supervisors should ensure that supervisory sessions are uninterrupted as far as possible by telephone calls, personal callers and departmental business. Although it is not possible to dictate the precise length of meetings we would expect a period of at least one hour to be set aside for each supervision session.

The department has agreed that completion of Supervision Forms is compulsory. The forms should detail the agreed work schedule for the next meeting. The completion of this form is the responsibility of the student who will copy it to the supervisors. Supervisors are responsible for ensuring that this is done. These forms are available on the departmental website.

Evaluation of supervisors

The Department and the University Graduate Research Office carry out an annual evaluation of supervision and the Department seeks to feed back the general results of this into the training of supervisors.

If specific problems arise with the supervision process either supervisor or student or both should first contact the course manager who will advise and, where necessary, refer to the Director of Research and/or Head of Department. Similarly, if you are unhappy with any aspect of your work as a research student, and do not wish to consult your supervisor directly, please contact the course manager or any other member of the team.

Staff supervision interests

The list below is designed to give a sense of the existing research interests and expertise within the Department. It is an overview only and is not exhaustive. If you are considering postgraduate research, please contact us to discuss your interests.

Fuller details of staff's research interests can be found by clicking their names, which lead to their individual profiles.


Supervision/research interests

Benzer, Matthias Dr

Sociological theory; sociological methodology; cultural theory; quality of life debates; biopolitics; sociology of health and illness; sociology of suffering, dying, and death; regulation studies.

Britton, Jo Dr

Sociology of race and racism; social construction of racialised and ethnic identities; multi-cultural citizenship; European muslims; mixed race studies. Topics of my current and recent postgraduates include transracial adoption; the Sheffield Yemeni community; British Muslim identity post 9/11; food and culture in British Somali families.

Churchill, Harriet Dr

Contemporary parenting and childhoods; social constructionist perspectives on families, childhood, youth and family orientated policies; family support; social exclusion; families and children; feminist family sociology / social policy.

Clark, Tom Dr

Research methodology; novel applications of social theory; sociology of deception; sport.

Davies, Katherine Dr

Kinship and relatedness; friendship, personal relationships and social change; sibling relationships; inheritance and social transmission; life course, youth and childhood; and qualitative methodologies.

Dennis, Alex Dr

Contemporary social theory; conversation analysis; ethnomethodology; media studies; non-criminal deviance; organisational studies; permissiveness; political discourse; social interaction; social order; sociology of art and music; tolerance.

Foster, Liam Dr

Social security; pensions; political economy approaches to welfare and poverty in older age.

Gerrard, Dr Ysabel

Social media and society; feminist media theory; gender and digital cultures; fandom and audience studies; digital research methods.

Hughes, Nathan Prof

Youth and young adult criminal justice policy; childhood neurodevelopmental impairment; developmental science and its applications to the social sciences; family-focused policy, practice and research methods.

Kennedy, Helen Dr

Social media / social media data mining / big data / visualisation; cultural & social issues relating to digital and social media; new media theory and practice; media work, production practices and cultural labour; digital methods; action research / participatory methods; gender and the media / feminist STS.

Kilkey, Majella Dr

Comparative gender analysis at the interface of paid work, care and welfare; international migration, including migration policies and migrants’ labour market and family experiences; families and social policies; Europeanization; and globalisation, as well as in the broader fields of comparative, international and global social policy.

L'Hoiry, Xavier Dr

Organised crime; ilicit enterprise and entrepreneurship; the illicit economy; policing; surveillance studies.

Leigh, Jadwiga Dr

The impact of blame on social work practice; the way in which professional social workers construct their identity; how organisational culture affects and influences the practice of social work; how European systems and models of child protection social work can be utilised in the UK, Qualitative methodologies such as ethnography, narrative and visual methods.

Lewis, Hannah Dr

Migration policies; 'race' and multicultural strategies; immigration; community; family; transnational relationships; work and leisure among migrants; forced labour.

Martin, Paul Prof

Ethical, legal and social issues associated with emerging medical technologies; the commercialisation of biotechnology and expectation dynamics in medical innovation.

Martinez-Perez, Alvaro Dr

Social stratification and inequality; labour markets; education; family and gender; migration; electoral behaviour; advanced multivariate methods (such as panel regression, event history analysis, multilevel analysis, multiple imputation).

Mayblin, Dr Lucy

Asylum, refugees, human rights, historical and political sociology, postcolonialism, decoloniality, policy making and power.

Morris, Kate Prof

Family experiences of child welfare services; how social workers theorise family and understand family practices; the impact of inequality; new approaches to supporting families.

Neal, Sarah Prof

Multiculture, ethnicity, identity, community and belonging; rural and urban places, migration, everyday life, social in/exclusion and policy interventions.

Norris, Clive Prof

Sociology of deviance and social control and comparative criminology: the sociology of policing, the police use of informers, the impact and effectiveness of CCTV surveillance, surveillance in the workplace, the sociology of the new surveillance technologies (DNA, drug and alcohol testing), the experience of surveillance, the media representation of surveillance, decision making in the criminal justice system.

Pearce, Warren Dr

Climate change communication and policy; public inclusion in research governance; the rise of randomised trials within UK public policy.

Reed, Kate Dr

Sociology of health and illness; social theory; race and ethnicity; gender studies.

Ryan, Louise Prof

Migration, gender, ethnicity and identity.

Salway, Sarah Prof

Public health; inequality; race/ethnicity; gender; poverty; reproductive health; chronic health conditions.

Sen, Robin Mr

Children and families practice, with particular emphasis on issues of safeguarding and work with looked after children.

Szulc, Dr Lukasz

Cultural and critical media studies; Digital media; Identity; Queer theory and LGBTQ studies; Nations and nationalism; migration and globalisation.

Tomlinson, Mark Dr

Poverty and deprivation (measurement and impacts); child poverty and well-being; labour markets; skills and training; the relationships between social, innovation and industrial policy; socio-economic indicators; advanced multivariate methods (such as structural equation models, panel regression, neural networks).

Twum-Danso Imoh, Afua Dr

Global export of a particular notion of childhood through international law and policies and its impact on local communities; the implementation of international children’s rights standards within a developing country context; the impact of cultural values such as reciprocity, respect and responsibility on children’s rights principles; the socialization of children and changing parent-child relations and the implications for children’s welfare and rights; the concept of children’s participation in non-Western societies.

Vicari, Stefania Dr

Digital media; digital literacy; digital activism; online political participation; participatory dynamics on digital media platforms; digital methods approaches; health and social media use.

Walker, Alan Prof

Alan Walker is one of the UK's most experienced postgraduate research supervisors in the fields of sociology, social policy and social gerontology, with more than 40 successful PhD completion's (a 100% completion record). He would welcome applications from potential postgraduates interested in any of the topics contained in the research section of his staff web page

Warren, Lorna Dr

Social and cultural dimensions of ageing; intergenerational relations and informal or family care relationships. Particularly interested in hearing from students who wish to undertake participatory research with older people.

Weiner, Kate Dr

Sociology of health and illness; science and technology in society; consumer health technologies; lay and professional knowledge; user-technology relations; health identities and responsibilities; genetics; heart disease; patient organisations; self-monitoring; digital health.

White, Sue Prof

Child and family social work, professional practice, ethnography, the social implications of technological biologies, or the design of systems.

Wigfield, Andrea Dr

Evidence based policy and practice; contemporary challenges facing women, (including BME women), carers, and older people; Good Relations and its significance across and within the equality strands, and in different urban and rural spaces.

Willaims, Dr Ros

health and social media; digital health; sociology of health and illness; genetics, race and ancestry; science and technology in society/STS; digital methods; tissue donation and biobanking.

Yeandle, Sue Prof

The work of carers’ organisations; the provision of home care in Shanghai (Wenjing Jin); care, work, gender and family.

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