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Excellent Supervision

Through the Doctoral Academy, the University of Graz specifically supports intensive support for doctoral students through teams of supervisors, some of whom are also supported by postdocs. In addition, the University of Graz honors outstanding supervisors with its own prize, the Seraphine-Puchleitner Prize for excellent doctoral support, in order to signal institutional appreciation at the individual level of promoting young researchers. Good dissertation supervision can take place via very different approaches, below are examples of standards of good supervision as well as further materials.

  1. Good supervision can make a significant contribution to increasing the quality of the dissertation through continuous professional exchange, content-related thematic suggestions and methodological advice.
  2. Optimal supervision promotes the speedy progress and completion of the doctoral project - especially through support in the clear tailoring of the dissertation project and advice in time management.
  3. Good supervision offers help in acquiring additional qualifications that are essential for later professional careers (inside and outside the university).
  4. Finally, good supervision lays the foundation for a disciplinary and interdisciplinary network of doctoral students and in this way also makes a decisive contribution to professional success, even after completing the doctorate.

Based on: Gymnich, Marion und Stedman, Gesa: Doktorandenbetreuung: Betreuungsmodelle und Qualitätskriterien. In: Nünning, Ansgar und Sommer, Roy (Hrsg.): Handbuch Promotion. Forschung - Förderung - Finanzierung. Verlag J.B.Metzler 2007. S.81

In the event of university closings in connection with a pandemic or other necessities, there are recommendations for online doctoral supervision: Manual from the UK Council of Graduate Education.

Furter examples about standards for supervision (see also list further below):

Taylor, Stan and Beasley, Nigel: A Handbook for Doctoral Supervisors. Routledge London and New York, 2005

Stock, Schneider, Peper, Molitor (Hrsg.): Erfolgreich promovieren. Ein Ratgeber von Promovierten für Promovierende. Springer 2009 (2. Aufl.)

Doctoral candidates must come to a supervisory agreement with their supervisor, which defines the rights and obligations of candidates and supervisors.

Here it is in German (deutschsprachige Betreuungsvereinbarung) an in English.


Kumar S, Kumar V, Taylor S (2020): A Guide to Online Supervision. Guide for Supervisors, UK Council for Graduate Education, Online-Manual.

Taylor S, Beasley N, Kiley, M. (2017) A Handbook for Doctoral Supervisors. Second Edition. New York: Routledge
A very practice-orientated book on the whole supervision process from start to finish. The first author is from the natural sciences.

Delamont S, Atkinson P, Parry O. (1997) Supervising the PhD. A guide to success. Open University Pres, USA.
A slightly older, internationally renowned book that contains many good "tips and tricks", specific cases and clear actions.

Eley A, & Murray R. (2009) How to be an Effective Supervisor. Best practice in research student supervision. Open University Press, Berkshire: McGraw-Hill.
A textbook on the facilitation and administration of supervision processes both in relation to the university as an institution and in relation to strategies for the individual supervision meeting.

Eley A, & Jennings R. (2005) Effective Postgraduate Supervision. Improving the Student/Supervisor Relationship. Open University, London, UK.
Very useful, case-based and problem-oriented book with 30 problem cases and specific proposals for supervisors and administrators.

Lee, A. (2012). Successful Research Supervision. Advising Students Doing Research. London & New York: Routledge.
The book offers a research-based practical framework for supervisors. It guides the reader through a series of exercises to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and then provides theoretically sound advice in a practical and easy to use format.

Wisker, G. (2012): The Good Supervisor. Supervising Postgraduate and Undergraduate Research for Doctoral Theses and Dissertations. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd edition
The book covers core elements and phases in the supervision processes. It contains both strategies for supervision of the project/thesis and the process as a whole, and strategies for the individual supervision meeting. The book is more theoretical than instructive though.

Thanks a lot to Gitte Wichmann-Hansen for providing us with these useful tipps!

Online resources if you only have 15 minutes

Thanks a lot to Gitte Wichmann-Hansen for providing us with these useful links!

Supervision – Graduate and Postdoctoral Support: A very strong resource from McGill University. The best!! It is aimed at PhD supervisors and it includes a number of concrete evidence based advice. For each sub-element, there is three tabs: 1) Practical advice, 2) Ideas for reflection, & 3) Research and evidence.

Vitae: A compelling web page from Vitae, which is a national development forum in UK working specifically with quality development and assurance of PhD supervision

To lead the way: Danish brochure translated into English with the title "To lead the way". It contains good advice on the PhD supervision process based on interviews with supervisors and students from all faculties at the University of Copenhagen.

Western Guides on Graduate Supervision: Here you find two recommendable and easy-to-read brochures with good advice for PhD supervisors. One of the brochures is specifically about supervision across cultures: Western Guide to Mentoring Graduate Students Across Cultures. The brochures were developed by The Teaching Support Center at the University of Western Ontario.

Postgraduate Environments: A new resource page from 2017 that includes advice on all parts of a PhD study process from enrolment to the PhD defence, in particular it focuses on how to integrate students into the research environment. The web page is aimed at students as well as supervisors. It is a collaboration between 12 European Universities.

Web-based Resources directed specifically at PhD students

Thesis whisperer: This is a blog newspaper dedicated to the topic of doing a thesis and is edited by Dr Inger Mewburn, Director of research training at the Australian National University. The blog is also worth reading as a supervisor!

Thomson: This website is managed by Pat Thomson, Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham. The main idea is to help doctoral students write. The site is mainly directed at students writing within the humanistic and social science disciplines.

DoctoralWriting SIG: A very useful blog that is administrered bythree distinguished australian researchers within doctoral writing.


Andersen, Ö. Efficient Scientific Writing: Write Better Papers, Faster. 2019. ISBN: 978-91-519-1855-6.
A new and very practical book on writing targeted at students in the natural sciences. It provides advice on the writing product (how to select material, build an argument, work from draft to finished, publishable text) and the writing process (on creating good writing habits).

Booth WC, Colomb GG, Williams JM, Bizup J, & Fitzgerald WT. (2016): The Craft of Research. 4rd edition, Chicago: The University of Chicago.
A classic work on the elements that any good research text should consist of.  Especially, Chapter 3. From Topics to Questions and 4. From Questions to a Problem as well as the entire part III on Making Good Arguments seems to be helpful to students.

Gardiner M, & Kearns H. (2012) The ABCDE of Writing:  Coaching high-quality high-quantity writing.
Experienced by PhD students when they have to write and offers good advice on how to handle these challenges.

Gosling P, & Noordam B. (2006)  Mastering Your PhD – Survival and Success in the Doctoral Years and Beyond. London: Springer.
A good and easy-to-read book for PhD students specifically within the "hard" sciences such as the natural sciences and health sciences.

Johnson S. (2011) Getting it Across. A Guide to Effective Academic Writing. Amsterdam: Techne Press.
A really good hands-on guide to effective academic writing in English. Provides an indispensable 'recipe' on how to write an introduction to scientific articles.

Lindsay, D (2011) Scientific writing = Thinking in Words. CSIRO Publishing. I SBN: 9780643101579.
A very accurate guide on how to structure articles, and what each section should ideally contain and how it is communicated in scientific language. Targeted at students within natural and health sciences.

Lovitts B. (2007): Making the Implicit Explicit. Creating Performance Expectations for the Dissertation. Sterling, Virginia: Stylus Publishing. 
Extensive empirical research on quality criteria for the PhD dissertations within 12 subjects based on focus group interviews with a large number of supervisors. With suggestions on how criteria for a good dissertation can be used for formative feedback. It is very interesting to read about one’s own subject and, for the supervisor in particular, about providing criteria-based formative feedback on drafts. 438 essential pages!

Murray R. (2011) How to Write a Thesis. 3rd.Edition, NY: Open University Press
Straightforward and extensive detailed help for the process and product. Perhaps the best current handbook on writing a PhD.

Paltridge B, & Starfield S. (2007) Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language – a handbook for Supervisors. London: Routledge.
Forget  that the title is "in a second language' – it is a very informative, genre-based guide, with really good chapters about how to write an introduction, literature review, discussion and methodology sections and conclusions. Just as relevant for PhD students, as it is more about genre requirements than supervision.

Pearce L. (2005) How to Examine a Thesis. The Society for Research into Higher Education. OUP, London, UK.
If you are new as a PhD evaluator, this is a good guide to criteria and the entire assessment and defense process.

Tinkler P, & Jackson C. (2004) The Doctoral Examination Process. A handbook for students, examiners and supervisors. Berkshire: Open University Press.
An entire book on the PhD defense seen from the perspective of all parties, including assessment criteria, dialogue etc.

Trafford V, & Leshem S. (2008) Stepping Stones to Achieving your Doctorate. By focusing on your viva from the start. NY: Open University Press.
A textbook on writing a PhD dissertation. It is constructed around an essential point: that good writing starts with precise knowledge of the objectives/requirements for the final product, i.e. that the work and the supervision process should ideally take place “from back to front” with focus on the defense.

Thanks a lot to Gitte Wichmann-Hansen for providing us with these useful tipps!


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Personal Consultation by appointment. Via Skype4Business/Phone, or on campus in the Meeting-Room, Heinrichstraße 22, 2nd floor (elevator), or the Room 0062, UB-Gebäude, Universitätsplatz 3a, 2nd floor (wheelchair accessible).

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