Avoiding Common Problems

Life can be unpredictable. So can graduate school. Unexpected things can happen when you analyze data, when you interact with your supervisor, or when you submit a manuscript. When something unexpected happens, you have the opportunity to step back and reflect so you can learn from the experience. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What did you expect to happen?
  • What did happen?
  • What role did you play in the result?
  • What could you have done differently to change the result?
  • What role did your supervisor play in the result?
  • What could your supervisor have done differently to change the result?
  • What can you learn from this experience?

Graduate Student and Supervisor Agreement

University Policy SC6 requires that research conditions for all involved in a research team should be outlined in a letter from the principal investigator before team members become engaged.

Letters are to cover issues such as compensation, supervision, authorship, records of data, ownership and/or use of data, publication rights, and commercialization. The templates provided here should be adapted with information specific to the program.

Ground Rules

Experienced supervisors recommend that "ground rules" for interactions with students be established early and maintained. Here is a list of ground rules that should be clarified in initial meetings between a graduate student and his/her supervisor:

  • How frequently you will meet and why (data updates, literature reviews, etc.).
  • The student’s role with regard to the data collection and analysis.
  • The supervisor’s role with regard to the student’s data collection and analysis.
  • Who will train the student to do technical work, and what is the role of the program technician.
  • Standard hours for office space, weekend work or labs.
  • A timeline for the research program, which may include experiments, data analysis, manuscript writing, and thesis writing.
  • Presentations at conferences and meetings: how many, how often and who pays.
  • Safety considerations which may need to be completed before working such as training programs, standard office or laboratory etiquette, or laboratory attire.
  • The use of university computers and accounts for research, net surfing, games, personal work, etc.
  • Applicable funding sources and the duration of such funding.