Abbe Winter; Jillian Blacker; and Lauren Woodlands

This chapter concludes the book Confident Supervision – Creating Independent Researchers and reinforces the supervisory practices that the authors and editors have provided to help you become a more confident supervisor for your higher degree researchers. This chapter ends the book with a call for you to continue your own professional development as a research supervisor by continuing to make use of the resources provided here by the authors of the various chapters.

The focus of this eBook is on enhancing your professional practice as a research supervisor. It contains a range of information, from the importance of building a network to ways to help your higher degree researchers think about their futures, and hopefully you will be able to adapt some of these lessons into your own practice.

What this book has provided

Although this book is divided into four clear sections – Collaborative Approaches, Capacity Building, Diverse Research Environments, and Future Focus, a thematic analysis of the content shows a much closer alignment of concepts across the book.  Despite our disciplinary and national differences, we are all largely writing about addressing the same key issues in research supervision – working together, writing, time, resources, and the higher degree by research process.

Theme 1: Collaboration

The theme of working together has been a core concept throughout this book, as well as being the explicit focus of Chapter 2. Many of the chapters are co-authored, clearly indicating the value we place on collaborative practices. One of the key things we want to reiterate here is the importance of building trusted and respectful collaborations and diverse and inclusive networks (including, but not limited to, communities of practice), as supervisory strategies for enabling independent researchers. To build your network, begin by reaching out within your own research area, whether that’s in your own department or your university more broadly. Then look for ways to expand this network to include colleagues from other education providers as well as government, business, and community sectors. You could also reach out to the authors of the various chapters in this book, as well as to the editors, to continue the conversations they have started here.

As part of this process, it can be useful to think about the tangible markers of collaboration that you can use to track your progress and development. For example:

  • What does collaboration look like for you as a supervisor?
  • Do you collaborate with colleagues?
  • Do you collaborate with your higher degree researchers?
  • What might collaboration look like for your higher degree researchers?
  • Who could they be collaborating with?
  • Are there people you can introduce your higher degree researchers to, who they could start collaborating with?

Theme 2: Writing

In higher education a lot of our collaboration occurs through writing together. Although only Chapter 6 explicitly addresses the mechanics of creating writing ecologies, writing practices are woven throughout the book, because the thesis is a key requirement for the completion of the higher degree, and is often the most significant piece of writing a person will complete, at least in terms of size.

It is important to reflect on how you can leverage this for your higher degree researchers, and yourself. For example:

  • Where are the opportunities for you and your higher degree researchers to write, so that you normalise the cyclic process of drafting, reviewing, and having multiple iterations of a document-in-progress?
  • How can you model the reading and reflection which is integral to thesis writing?
  • How can you enable peer discussion of ideas and concepts throughout the writing process?

Theme 3: Time

Time is needed for all of the practicalities discussed throughout this book – all of the drafts and iterations of the analysis, as discussed in Chapter 2. Building a network (Chapter 3) takes time, becoming employable (Chapter 11) takes time, and even designing and enacting the data collection process (Chapters 9 and 12) often takes longer than we anticipated! Within the research journey, time can be viewed through different competing lenses which all vie for the attention of a higher degree researcher. It is your role as a supervisor to help your higher degree researchers to know the requirements for the successful completion of their studies and how familiarity with various time requirements supports this success.

It is useful to think about how this can be done. For example:

  • What is your relationship with research time?
  • How do you manage your workload to achieve work-life harmony?
  • How have you explained candidature timeline requirements to your higher degree researchers?
  • What is your own relationship with the timelines required by the university?
  • Do you describe time in punitive terms or do you use a strengths-based approach to maximising time and energy?
  • How do you discuss time with your higher degree researchers?
  • How do you discuss time with your colleagues?
  • Do you harness time, manage it, plan for it, work with it?
  • How do you celebrate reaching goals with your higher degree researchers?

Theme 4: Resources

We now approach the more prevalent themes discussed within this book. The first one is resources – the people, policies, and practicalities available both within and beyond our universities to help support and sustain us and our higher degree researchers. These resources are the things beyond us that we can draw upon – from the magnificent support of librarians, through to the clear guidance of ethicists, and on to the precious partnerships with Indigenous support units.

It is important to consider how you can connect with relevant resources available to you and your higher degree researchers. For example:

  • Take a moment to make a list/mind map of the resources available to you.
  • Is anything missing?
  • Where can you go for what you need?
  • How have you shared these with your higher degree researchers?
  • How and with whom can you advocate for what your higher degree researchers need?

Theme 5: The Degree

Finally, we come to the degree itself – the reason that our higher degree researchers are with us. Our goal as research supervisors is to build our higher degree researchers’ capacity, to help them become confident and capable researchers in their own right, able to share with the world their original ideas and analysis. The various chapters throughout this book have provided numerous suggestions for ways to assist our higher degree researchers to complete their degrees, as well as ways for us to reconceptualise our own work as academic supervisors.

When reflecting on this theme, consider the following:

  • What did achieving your research degree mean for you?
  • What does it represent in the life of your higher degree researchers?
  • How has the title of Doctor changed you as a thinker and a learner?
  • What completion and milestone celebration rituals do you encourage and pass on to your successful higher degree researchers?


As research supervisors, we need to be constantly reflecting on and in our practice (Schön, 1983) to ensure we are actioning, enabling, creating, and modelling our best practice for our higher degree researchers. To be successful supervisors, we all need to be lifelong and continuous learners. No matter where you are in your supervisory journey, there are always ways to learn and improve.  As humans, we learn as well from the actions (and mistakes) of others as we do from our own – indeed, people often learn better from the mistakes of others, because we have distance (spatial, emotional, and temporal) from the mistakes and can more clearly see the lessons.

This book was developed as a professional development resource for you, so take what you need from it now, and feel free to come back to it again in the future when your needs have changed. As Edwards et al. (1995) argue in the Tracking Postgraduate Supervision appendix to this eBook, it is important to revisit your supervisory practices, and to select what you need from the available resources. Remember that your practice and needs as a supervisor will also change and evolve as your experience grows, so checking back every year will give you plenty of opportunities to make use of this free resource to support your supervisory practice.

Additional Resources

To build and evidence your practice:

  1. Review the contents of this book – are there any chapters that you need to re-visit to help you become a more confident supervisor of independent researchers?
  2. In a year or so, come back and see if your needs and experience have changed what you can take from the existing chapters. Then come back each year and do the same.
  3. Use the book to make a plan for mentoring your higher degree researchers – you may want to use a chapter as a focus for a few weeks or months, or you may wish to choose one suggestion to enact for a while.
  4. Keep reflecting on your practice – what can you action, enable, create, and model?


While most of these sources and additional readings are freely available, some are not. The lock icon beside an entry indicates that the source may be available from your library.

Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. Temple Smith. Closed lock icon



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Confident Supervisors: Creating Independent Researchers Copyright © 2023 by Abbe Winter; Jillian Blacker; and Lauren Woodlands is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.