Reflect on your own
Who helped you to learn about the research culture?
How did you become aware of the norms, standards, values and attitudes associated with being a successful researcher in your discipline or area of study?
How can you improve your communication or supervisory skills to support positive supervisor–mentee relationships?
While some standards that support scholarly integrity are common and widely accepted, others are informal and tacit. Mentoring can help convey these unwritten rules and promote the responsible conduct of research.
Furthermore, research supervisors bear an additional responsibility to guide and monitor the conduct of their trainees and can be held accountable for trainees’ misconduct if their research is investigated and found to have violated the standards of scholarly integrity.
A mutual commitment to the sustained, reciprocal process of mentorship is critical for both mentor and mentee to engage in ongoing learning and growth.
Commit to a productive relationship
To be an effective supervisor or mentee requires intentional effort from both parties to sustain a professional relationship. Both trainees and supervisors should have a conversation to make their expectations clear to one another from the outset and update these expectations as needed. Maintaining open communication is crucial for creating a positive supervisor–mentee relationship.
Communicate frequently, clarify often
To benefit the most from an effective mentoring or supervisory relationship, maintain an open, interactive dialogue. Your goals, needs and expectations might evolve. Therefore, regular check-ins to exchange ideas and seek clarification and feedback from one another can be instrumental to maintaining a shared understanding and sense of accountability.
Lead with an open mind and proactive approach
Challenges relating to the research culture or interpersonal issues may arise as the relationship matures. Seeking guidance to learn about new ways to adjust to these challenges and proactively addressing them can strengthen the existing relationship. It also helps to prepare the mentee as they take on the responsibility of training the next generation of researchers.
The mentoring relationship may be suffering from mismatched expectations if you’re finding yourself confused, frustrated or resentful. Both parties should work to develop a shared understanding of the time commitment required, which issues and challenges are appropriate for discussion and what approaches to take when working with each other. Aim to have a clarifying conversation to ensure your expectations are in the same place.
Feeling pressured for time
Between competing commitments, deadlines and priorities it can seem like there’s never a good time to meet. Not to mention that preparing for that meeting is made more difficult when we’re in a hurry. Therefore, the first meeting or first few meetings can be an important opportunity to communicate your expectations and clarify what commitments look like from both parties — but don’t be afraid to seek clarification throughout your relationship as needs and expectations change.
Tension from an imbalance of power
A research trainee may be afraid to speak up or ask for advice if they fear losing their supervisor’s support, while mentors might struggle to prioritize their mentees among their academic duties and professional interests. While having an open discussion and revisiting expectations could help, consulting with a third party, such as your supervisory committee members, graduate advisor or support staff at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies or College of Graduate Studies, can also be beneficial.
- Graduate Supervision Workshops, UBC Vancouver
- Handbook of Graduate Supervision, UBC Vancouver
- Principles of Excellent Graduate Supervision, UBC Vancouver
- Foundations of Career Planning Program, Postdoctoral Fellow Office, UBC Vancouver
The developed content is adapted from the following:
- Anderson, M.S., Louis, K.S., Earle, J. (1994) Disciplinary and departmental effects on observations of faculty and graduate student misconduct. Journal of Higher Education 65: 331-350.
- Faculty Development and Instructional Design Centre (2005). Research Mentoring Module. Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL. Retrieved from: https://ori.hhs.gov/education/products/niu_mentorship/mentoring/memain.html
- Healy, C.C., Welchert, A.J. (1990) Mentoring Relations: A definition to advance research and practice. Educational Researcher 19:17-21.
- Kornfield, D.S. (2012) Perspective: Research Misconduct: The Search for a Remedy. Academic Medicine. 87:877-82.