Thesis: Tutoring and Development (monthly)

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Tutors and supervisors

As a postgraduate student you will have much closer individual support for your studies than you did as an undergraduate. Although the exact system varies between universities, you will find that there are a number of individual academic staff who you will work with closely, and who will provide you with support.

Masters students will usually be supported in the following ways, although the names and titles given to these roles may differ between universities:

A personal tutor

Your personal tutor will be the academic who will support you both academically and personally during your postgraduate program. He or she will provide you with guidance on your work and talk with you about choosing options and dissertation titles. Your tutor will also be able to provide you with guidance and support if you have any personal issues and will be able to direct you to support services such as financial advisers, counsellors or careers guidance staff. You will probably meet with your tutor individually a number of times during the postgraduate program.

Course unit tutors

Course unit tutors are the academic staff who lead or teach on individual teaching units. They will probably mark your assignments for their unit and may provide individual or group tutorials while you are studying their unit.

Program leaders

Each program will have an academic who is the overall leader and is responsible for organizing the program. You will meet these people at key times during the Master’s program, particularly at the start, and will be able to talk with them if there are particular questions or issues you need to discuss.

Postgraduate tutor

If an academic department has more than one postgraduate program, they may have a postgraduate tutor who has overall responsibility for the welfare and academic studies of all the postgraduates in that department. Although you will meet the postgraduate tutor occasionally, you are most likely to need to talk with him or her if you have a particular issue or problem

Dissertation supervisor

When you decide on your topic for your Master’s thesis or dissertation you will be given a dissertation supervisor who will support you as you work on your project. Most programs allocate dissertation supervisors only when topics have been chosen, so that you will have the academic who is most expert in your field.

It is likely that some of these roles may be filled by the same person. It is quite possible, for example, that your personal tutor will also supervise your dissertation, or that one of the course unit tutors will provide your supervision. Most departments, though, will ensure that there are several tutors who you will work with during your program. This is for two reasons. First, it means that you will experience a variety of academic views, which is helpful in developing your expertise in the subject. Secondly, though, it means that there are several people who can provide you with support. Although it is quite unusual, there are times when students do not ‘get on well’ with their personal tutor or a particular unit tutor, so it is helpful if there is somebody else, they can turn to for advice.

Doctoral students may have a similar range of tutors who they work with during their studies, particularly if they are following a taught Doctorate program. For all Doctoral students, though, the key support is through their supervisor. MPhil/PhD students will be allocated their supervisor from the start of the program, while taught Doctoral students may not be allocated a supervisor until the time when they finally choose their thesis topic. The supervisor will probably be your personal tutor too, because the individual nature of Doctoral research means that you will have a very close relationship with your supervisor.


Paltridge, B., & Starfield, S. (2007). Thesis and Dissertation Writing in a Second Language: A Handbook for Supervisors. Routledge.

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