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Working with a Supervisor

Selecting a Supervisor and Committee

Before you start your research or project hours (these are classes numbered 901 or 902), perhaps even before you have started your program, you will choose a supervisor (and possibly a co-supervisor). Student-supervisor relationships vary greatly, working with your supervisor can be rewarding or challenging, formal or personal, it may be cooperative or even frustrating.

It is important to select a supervisor who you respect, and your supervisor must be someone with whom you can work with. Information about selecting a supervisor(s) is listed under the Selection of Supervisor.

You, with your supervisor, will also select a graduate committee. This committee will read and judge your final thesis or project. Your committee can provide additional help and support you through your program, you can turn to your committee for advice and guidance through your program.

Detailed information on Master’s / PhD committees:
Supervisory Committee for Master's Candidates 
Supervisory Committee for Doctoral Candidates

Your supervisor(s) and committee members must be accredited with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

Responsibilities of Supervisors

Your supervisor is expected to guide you through your program, help you develop and carry out your research or project, and direct you in writing your thesis (Responsibilities of Supervisors, Academic Units & Graduate Students).

Some students and supervisors find it useful to sign a Letter of Understanding that details responsibilities and expectations. FGSR has put a sample together, students and supervisors are encouraged to edit it as is appropriate.

Change of Supervisor

The graduate student is responsible for interacting with advisors and committee members in a professional manner, and for doing their part in maintaining positive working relationships. At times, the research interests of a student may change, or conflicts may arise between a student and supervisor that require formal means to resolve matters. An appropriate course of action may be a request for a change of supervisor in accordance with the following procedure:

  • the student submits the Change of Graduate Supervisor form to the academic unit head (or designate) for a change of supervisor.
  • the head will process the request, which will involve consulting with all relevant parties.
  • the head forwards the request and a recommendation (including pertinent comments as may apply) to the Dean of FGSR.

In recommending the change, it is assumed that the head has verified that each person (new supervisor, previous supervisor, and student) is in agreement, or accepting of the change.

If there is not full agreement, every effort should be made to resolve the matter before notice is sent to the Dean’s office.

It should be noted that:

  • the new supervisor must have an accreditation level consistent with the student’s program of study.
  • the department and FGSR have no responsibility to agree to a change in supervisory arrangements if they cannot reasonably be accommodated. In this regard, the department should consult with FGSR and then inform the student about what supervisory arrangements will or will not be provided.
  • if there are funding issues involved, these must be clarified in the submission from the head. For example, it may be acknowledged that funding through the previous supervisor is no longer available, and/or what funding, if any, will be provided by the new supervisor.