Keeping track of developing doctoral writing

I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of research students, and all of them are part-time.  They have big day-jobs as teachers and lecturers, and so I only get to see them once every couple of months.  One of the big headaches I’ve had has been keeping track of different versions of their work.  And though some of them are very good about sending a covering note with their written work to explain what the writing is for, how they’ve tried to put into practice previous feedback, and what type of feedback they want this time, others don’t do this at all.  What to do?

Well, I had the great good fortune to attend a writing workshop by the wonderful Professor Rowena Murray recently, and picked up a great tip from her.  She is in a similar situation and suggests making students use a sort of mini-template at the start of their piece of writing.  So here is the one that I have devised according to her advice – it’s very short and simple:

Work submitted by [student name] on [date] for supervision on [date/time]


Version number (if there have been previous versions):

Nature and purpose of this piece of writing:

How have you incorporated previous feedback from supervision into this piece of work?

I’m hoping this will not only  be useful for me, but will also help the students get a sharper handle on what they are writing and why – as well as focusing clearly on implementing feedback.  It should also help them when they start publishing and will have to respond to referees’ comments in a covering letter that explains changes they have made to their paper.

So far, it seems to be working well for us, but it’s early days yet – I will write another post when I and my students have had more time to try it out and maybe tweaked it a bit.  Any comments or suggestions about similar efforts would be most welcome!

This post also links to an earlier one: learn to manage your supervisor

This entry was posted in Effective supervision, Supervisor concerns and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Keeping track of developing doctoral writing

  1. ujsalmon says:

    This is very useful, thanks Helen. One method that I’d like to try with my supervisor would be to introduce my work ahead of the supervisions session as follows:

    You asked me to…..
    This is what I did……
    This is what I plan to do next….

    I used to use this with a very busy manager in a previous role, who always forgot what he’s asked me to do in previous meetings.

    • Helen Colley says:

      It is incredibly difficult to keep track of it all sometimes, especially if one has a lot of students (I have 10!) that one doesn’t see really frequently. And we’re all always doing too much anyway… So your strategy is a good one. It also fits with the idea of you managing your supervisor to get the most out of the supervisory interactions and relationship – to put yourself more in charge. I put some helpful suggestions about this in my first post on this blog – learning to manage your supervisor.

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