Supervising medical research and being supervised

Sean T. Kehoe, Sudha Sundar

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Introduction At its best, an effective supervisor/trainee team can make great strides in addressing a research question, and be hugely enjoyable and rewarding to both. The supervisor finds an enthusiastic and committed trainee who brings fresh insight into a research question; the trainee acquires critical thinking skills, problem solving skills and presentation skills, in addition to practical expertise in research. Both supervisor and trainee are energised by this interaction and the outcomes that follow - high-quality papers, grant outputs and research impact - embellish both careers, as well as being great fun. However, even the best of supervisor/trainee relationships can have friction and it is important to manage expectations on both sides. This chapter will discuss choosing/being chosen by a supervisor and deciding on your project, expectations on both sides and frameworks to support both supervisor and trainee, and offer some guidance to troubleshooting commonly occurring challenges. This chapter purposely omits the other common problems in research, such as design, strategy, techniques and methods, reliability and validity, as well as funding avenues. Its areas of interest are those of supervising and being supervised and, for the purposes of this chapter, relate primarily to higher degrees (PhD, MD and MPhil). Many of the principles equally apply to other research situations, such as undergraduate projects. Choosing the Right Supervisor The typical research trainee will spend three to four years working closely with their supervisor. The selection of supervisor and project will impact hugely on a trainee’s choice of career after research, whether they choose to pursue academia or not. It will impact on any decisions on subspecialty training, and in some ways it will narrow the choice of consultant position. A research supervisor will influence the way a trainee thinks and practises medicine for the rest of their working life: I feel personally that the voice of my supervisor remains in my head, correcting much of what I do. So, how does a trainee choose the right supervisor? Firstly, a useful starting point is to have an idea as to a field of interest within the specialty. If more junior in training, it also helps to know whether the intention is to pursue a future career in research.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntroduction to Research Methodology for Specialists and Trainees
EditorsP. M. Shaughn O'Brien, Fiona Broughton Pipkin
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781107585775
ISBN (Print)9781107699472
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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