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7 Jul 2016

6 Facts About Difficult Project Supervisors & How To Handle Them

Just got a difficult project supervisor?

As in, sometimes he yell at you on the phone? Other times he ignores you, makes you feel worthless, and threatens to nullify your research?

It’s like he is becoming the enemy your spiritual leader used to talk about, right? Here is a list of hidden truths about this set of supervisors you need to know:

1. They need you more than you need them:

I understand we’ve been made to believe supervisors are demigods, but the truth is that they largely need you more! Some lecturers are inexperienced in the area of supervision, hence they’re added to a list of supervisors to gain ‘experience’. While it is, perhaps, reasonable, the result might be devastating as they sometimes try to prove some ‘points’.

As regard the experienced ones, your work is needed to elevate their portfolio. Supervision counts, they all get paid for it, get rewarded career-wise, and when you deliver an invaluable research, they prove authorship on all or some contents without your consent.

What can you do? Do Nothing when you have no proof.

2. You were assigned a project supervisor based on institutional convenience, not necessarily by research contribution

This is straightforward. Students are sometimes made to believe they were assigned a supervisor who has contributed immensely to their research field. While this might be true in some instances, have you ever considered what would happen when you choose a preferred topic and none of your Lecturers has contributed to that field? I bet, your institution would never hire a Lecturer for your singular sake even if you’ve paid a million naira tuition. Institutional convenience would make them force a topic down your throat, and when you resist, be prepared for battle.

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3. They are career-obsessed and self-centered.

Do not let the aggressiveness deceive you. You may have thought the yelling and agitations are meant to make you excel, but the truth remains that he’s more concerned about his career, his articles, promotion, etc. You both are engaging in similar tasks. An average supervisor conducts research from time to time, so God help you if two of his recently submitted articles have just been rejected by a reviewer. You’d have to explain to him reasons the articles were declared unfit for publication.

4. They do not read your work

Frankly, supervision is difficult. It takes more than commitment to supervise tens to hundred within a short timeframe. So, do not be surprised to read that majority do not read their students’ papers in toto. HOWEVER, do not! AGAIN, do not, under the guise of this belief, present an incoherent writeup. Be rest assured that your work would be strictly monitored as soon as something fantastically devastating is spotted. So be cautious, and put the right things in place.

5. A bad relationship between students and supervisors is not always the fault of the supervisor

As previously mentioned, supervision is hard; it is harder when a communication gap sets in. Improved communication can dramatically improve your relationship with an aggressive supervisor. How do you improve your communication from the onset? State your goals and study objectives clearly; give your supervisor the aim of your research and what you seek to achieve. Be assertive when and where necessary.

More so, do not rule out the possibility of a bad personality fit. A supervisor who is overly taciturn may find it hard to engage you in a 10 minute conversation. It isn’t really his fault, you have no control over his personality.

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6. They give plantain, and demand plantain chips

This trend cuts across diverse institutions. Do not rely ONLY on Research Methodology 401, 501, 701 classes. They will ONLY define qualitative research, and demand from you Grounded Theory. Don’t even expect, in your imaginations, to get intensive SPSS, Ms-Excel classes or training on other analytical Software like Orange.

You would be taught the conceptual differences between reliability and validity, but that’s just about it. Expect nothing on how to to carryout a reliability or validity test on a survey questionnaire with 7-item Likert scales.

While you do need thorough explanations on certain research topics, there is usually no time or finance to acquire such. Hence, ensure that you’re being guided by a good Lecturer, or someone with prerequisite understanding of your research process.

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