Doctoral Training at the Faculty of Humanities - Supervision

Supervision is an essential part of trouble-free and successful postgraduate studies. It is a long-term process that demands mutual commitment from the supervisor and the student. When successful, it is a rewarding experience for both sides. It is important to agree on the practicalities of the supervision in the very beginning of the postgraduate studies. Even though every supervisory relationship is different, all should contain guidance, communication, one-on-one meetings and messaging. Supervision involves giving critical and constructive as well as appreciative and encouraging feedback of different types of texts during different stages of the dissertation process. The faculty has given out binding supervision guidelines that concern all parties and an example of the supervision plan that both the supervisor and the student should familiarize themselves with.

Changes in the supervision must be discussed and agreed upon. When the second supervisor is changed or added to the team the faculty office must be informed. If the main supervisor is going to be changed the professor in charge of the postgraduate studies proposes the change in written. The change is confirmed by the dean.

The postgraduate student must update his or her supervisor about the progress of the dissertation and accomplishment of set goals, and inform the supervisor of possible delays. The postgraduate programmes send out a follow-up survey annually to all registered postgraduate students. The postgraduate student or the doctoral programme will send the information to the supervisor.

Supervision benefits both sides. It is also the advantage of the postgraduate student to have to evaluate his or her progress, to assess realistically the remaining workload and to be able to get help and guidance when needed.
2018-2019 onwards the the activeness of a doctoral candidate will be monitored annually. In order to maintain an active study right, a doctoral candidate is required to enrol every year, either as an attending or a non-attending student. As an attending student, a doctoral candidate is required to hand in an annual progress report to their doctoral programme in January. In addition, the supervisor needs to express their support for maintaining the active study right. Supervisors are familiar with their supervisees’ situation, progress, and also possible disruptions or dropping out so supervisors’ input is important while assessing the current situation of a doctoral candidate

Any questions concerning postgraduate studies can be addressed to general e-mail or to programme manager. Education secretary Tarja Ahonen counsels especially on issues related to examination process and grants (e-mail: 

Sometimes the research takes unpredicted directions and a new major may better fit the research theme. In this case a free-form application with attachments such as new research plan and postgraduate study plan are needed. For further information contact the programme manager or email

Financing is of key importance for fluent doctoral training. Supervisors give advice, Graduate School UTUGS arranges courses and Research Funding Unit provide counselling. 

Recommendations for postgraduate studies supervision practice

Purpose of the recommendations

The purpose of the recommendations concerning postgraduate studies supervision practice is to introduce the postgraduate student and his/her supervisor to the general principles of postgraduate studies supervision at the Faculty of Humanities. Furthermore, their purpose is to clarify the roles of the supervisor and the supervisee, to provide practical instructions and to suggest solutions to possible problem situations.

Postgraduate studies supervision supports the long-term process that is the postgraduate student growing to become an independent researcher. A functioning supervisory relationship requires both parties to reflect on their hopes and methods of working. Confidential collaboration in the supervisory relationship advances the research, writing and studies flexibly.

A proportion of the postgraduate students work as full-time salaried doctoral candidates at a graduate school and others as full-time doctoral students with a grant. Some postgraduate students study part-time, conducting research alongside employment or other means of earning a living. Because of these differences, every supervisory relationship is different in practice. However, the following fundamental principles of supervision apply to all supervisory relationships.

General principles of postgraduate studies supervision
  1. The person responsible for postgraduate studies at the subject department must ensure that every postgraduate student has at least one supervisor. The supervisor must have a Doctorate or must be working as a professor. If the student has more than one supervisor, the supervisory tasks must be divided between the supervisors and agreed upon in the supervision plan. The person responsible for postgraduate studies at the subject department will negotiate with the potential supervisor about the supervisory position.
  2. To ensure the continuity of the supervisory relationship, it is best if the principal supervisor is a member of permanent staff at the student’s subject department. The secondary supervisor can be a researcher who has the expertise to work as a supervisor for the research in question. If the secondary supervisor is a younger researcher who does not yet have much experience in postgraduate studies supervision, it is possible that the supervisor with more experience mentors the supervisor with less experience.
  3. The secondary supervisor can be from another subject department at the faculty, from another faculty or from another university. An emeritus professor can be a supervisor as well, but in this case it is recommended that another supervisor from the postgraduate student’s subject department (or faculty) is involved in the process and makes sure that the guidelines and working methods of the subject department, graduate school and university are followed. It is also possible, that instead of a supervisor the student has a supervision group that includes members from outside the university, from a collaborating organisation for instance. With a supervisor from outside the University of Turku or a member of the supervision group, it is best to agree on the contents of the supervision and the possible pay in the very beginning of the supervisory relationship. As the supervisory relationship can work in a variety of ways, it is best to agree on its practices in a clear supervision plan.
  4. The future principal supervisor must familiarize him/herself with the student’s research topic and postgraduate study plan and confirm his/her acceptance of the supervisory position by signing the student’s application for postgraduate studies. The person responsible for postgraduate studies at the subject department must also familiarize him/herself with the application materials and, by signing the application, confirm that s/he accepts the choice of supervisor and recommends that the applicant is accepted as a postgraduate student.
  5. The supervisory relationship begins when the supervisor accepts the position. Before it, the supervisor has familiarized him/herself with the applicant’s research plan and postgraduate study plan and advised the applicant on how to draw up these plans.
  6. The supervisor(s) and the postgraduate student should agree on the principles of collaboration in the supervisory relationship, such as meetings and means of communication, and record these in the supervision plan. The supervision plan is revised annually at the same time than the report about the progress of studies is made. Both parties should also agree on the schedule of the dissertation, its partial objectives and the practicalities of giving feedback. Later on, they should specify the other studies included in the postgraduate degree (60 ECTS) and discuss other questions that concern the progress of the dissertation. The principal supervisor will make sure that the other studies included in the postgraduate degree (60 ECTS) will be entered into the study register according to the practice of the subject department.
  7. Doctoral training is coordinated by graduate schools and the doctoral candidate must report his/her progress annually to the graduate school. Postgraduate students receive an electronic survey each year about their progress. The student’s supervisor and subject department will be informed about the information in the survey. Each subject department has a member of staff who is responsible for postgraduate studies. He/she is responsible for the evaluation of applicants, organizing supervision for each student and monitoring the progress of every postgraduate student at the department. The person responsible for postgraduate studies also makes a proposal to the faculty for the pre-examiner and Opponent as well as for the Grading Committee, after having heard the supervisor(s) and the student.
  8. Any changes to the supervisory relationship must be negotiated between the supervisor and the supervisee and a new supervision plan should be drawn up. The person responsible for postgraduate studies at the subject department will approve the changes. The faculty and graduate school must also be notified of any changes to the supervisory relationship (
  9. When the examiner of the licentiate thesis, the pre-examiner of the doctoral dissertation and the Opponent(s) are chosen, the supervisor(s) and the student have the right to be heard before the decision is made.
Rights, responsibilities and obligations of the postgraduate student and the supervisor

A prerequisite for writing a successful doctoral dissertation is a good and functioning supervisory relationship. In a supervisory relationship, both the supervisor and the supervisee have rights, responsibilities and obligations. These are presented below in relation to both parties.
The postgraduate student

  • has the right to receive feedback from the supervisor(s) about his/her studies and research within an agreed time frame. It is recommended, that the student receives feedback from his/her principal supervisor at least once a semester, and from the secondary supervisor (or supervision group) at least once a year
  • must commit to the persevering and demanding work of writing a dissertation
  • receives support from the supervisor, yet must complete the postgraduate studies independently
  • is responsible for the progress of his/her research and for seeking guidance if s/he needs advice or has problems with the research
  • must regularly inform his/her supervisor about the progress of his/her studies and research
  • must take responsibility for his/her research decisions even if seeking and receiving advice and suggestions from the supervisor
  • must submit a yearly report to the doctoral programme about his/her progress (or fill out the survey sent by the doctoral programme).

The supervisor (the principal supervisor is responsible for all of the following; the secondary supervisor or supervision group are only responsible for tasks agreed beforehand)

  • must commit to a long-term, persevering supervisory relationship and to communicating regularly with the student
  • advices the student, and takes into account that the supervisee is only starting his/her research career and many practicalities of conducting research and writing a dissertation are unfamiliar to him/her
  • must commit to advancing the student’s research, also by helping with practical matters such as searching for funding
  • encourages the student to submit written work and gives critical and constructive feedback  on it, but does not do the research for him/her
  • makes sure the research is of high quality and that the doctoral dissertation manuscript meets the required standard (of the subject department and the graduate school) prior to submission for pre-examination. A plagiarism check with the plagiarism detection programme Turnitin is now a part of the quality assurance (since 1/1/2013)
  • supports the student during the fine-tuning stage of the dissertation and during the preparation for the public examination of the dissertation.
  • If the student has more than one supervisor, these responsibilities can be divided between the supervisors.

Both parties

  • must be aware of research ethics: both the supervisee and the supervisor must respect each other’s expertise so that unfinished or tentative ideas, suggestions and comments are shared in confidence. Both parties of the supervisory relationship offer and receive ideas.
Good practices
  1. The supervising arrangements can be amended and changed over the course of the research. The supervisory relationship can be changed on the student’s or supervisor’s initiative if, for example, the research topic changes or is modified, or if the supervisory relationship for some reason does not work anymore.
  2. The supervisor should estimate beforehand the time to be spent on each postgraduate student’s supervision annually and take account of this in his/her annual working plan. The supervisor must keep track of the time spent on supervision of students.
  3. Supervision does not always have to be unanimous. As the doctoral dissertation is the student’s independent work, s/he must also answer for the decisions made regarding it. The supervisor should recognize conflicts and leave room for the student to make his/her own decisions.
  4. The postgraduate student and the supervisor should keep a record of the supervision and the progress of the dissertation. The student can, for example, make notes on the meetings and, if required, update his/her postgraduate study plan. Notes are necessary if the supervisor should change and a new supervisor must be introduced to the situation. Notes can also be useful in other situations. If the postgraduate student has a supervision group, it is a good practice that s/he calls the group together annually and writes a memorandum of the meeting.
  5. The supervisor should be aware of the fact that there is a lot of implied information that relates to conducting research and this information might be self-evident to the experienced supervisor. The supervisor must thus make sure that the supervisee learns the practices and customs of the field: writing a research plan, applying for funding, participating in scientific conferences, publishing in the important publications of the field, preparing a manuscript for publication, networking within the academic community etc.
  6. The postgraduate student must contact the supervisor in good time and submit his/her research plan well before s/he needs a statement or a recommendation of any kind, for example for applying for funding.
  7. The supervisor should introduce the supervisee to the ethical guidelines of research (see the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity ).
  8. From the beginning of the year 2013 onwards, all doctoral dissertation manuscripts submitted for pre-examination must be checked with the plagiarism prevention programme Turnitin. The supervisor must familiarize him/herself with plagiarism checking practices and it is advisable to make them a part of supervision early on, before the manuscript is ready (it is also possible to check parts of the work or early versions with Turnitin). More information can be found on the Intranet (UTU username needed for signing in):
Possible problems and solving them
  1. Occasionally, a conflict can develop between the supervisor and the supervisee that is not solved by negotiation. In this situation, it is best to consult the person responsible for postgraduate studies at the subject department, the coordinator of the doctoral programme or the director of the doctoral programme. They will help to find a solution to the problem situation. If a negotiation does not provide a satisfactory solution for both parties, the supervisory relationship can be terminated, and a new supervisor (or supervisors) can be appointed.
  2. If the postgraduate student changes his/her major subject, a new postgraduate study plan must be drawn up and approved and signed by the new supervisor and the person responsible for postgraduate degrees at the relevant subject department. The plan is also delivered to the Faculty Office to be confirmed by the Dean. Changes relating to the major subject or supervision can be made any time of the year, regardless of application periods.
  3. If the supervisor can no longer supervise the dissertation, he/she should notify the student and the person responsible for postgraduate degrees at the subject department, who, after hearing the student, will appoint a new supervisor.
Supervision plan

This supervision plan can be used when agreed about the details of supervision