One-to-one advice for doctoral students

Did you know that the IOE runs two services, which offer specialist, one-to-one help and advice with qualitative research methods and also a statistical advisory service for those wishing to use quantitative methods? Please do make the most of these excellent services. 

Qualitative Research Service

Students can book 20 minute one-to-one consultation sessions with Dr Will Gibson to talk about specific aspects of their qualitative work. Whether at an early stage of research design, or at a later stage of data analysis, these sessions give students the opportunity to work through particular methodological issues, to think about qualitative data collection strategies, or to consider approaches to analysis in a friendly and relaxed one-to-one environment.  There will be four, twenty minute sessions available every two weeks in the Autumn term and places will be offered on a first come, first served basis. Students who are given appointments are asked to make sure they cancel in good time if they discover they cannot make them. Sessions can be booked through the Doctoral School Office by emailing  Students should provide their student ID and their Programme of Study. 

Statistical Advisory Service

The Faculty of Policy and Society runs a Statistical Advisory Service. Appointments can be made through David Fowkes in Room 211, 55 Gordon Square.  Telephone 020 7612 6654 or e-mail Students should provide their student ID and their Programme of Study. 

Students wishing to take advantage of this facility should have previously discussed their requirements for statistical advice with their supervisor and then ask their supervisor to email David Fowkes recommending that they seek specialist advice.The student needs to email David a one-page summary before their appointment, with a brief description of their research and the questions they would like to raise.  There is a range of issues on which the statisticians can advise which include sampling, experimental design, all issues to do with statistical analysis, and the use of specialist statistical packages.They do not, however, offer advice about the routine use of the SPSS package, for which students should seek help from the Computing Service Helpdesk.


Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)

 PRES survey feedback to supervisors

The Postgraduate Research Experience Survey runs every two years. This year 122 HEIs took part. It has questions on 7 areas: supervision, resources, research culture, progress and assessment, responsibilities, research skills, professional development, intellectual climate and administration.

 There were over 50 pages of qualitative comments. Below we reprint a selective summary of comments from two sections – ‘supervision’ and ‘research culture’. This has been sent to all doctoral supervisors in the faculty, as the first stage of feedback on the PRES survey. Supervisors will be discussing this at the next faculty Supervisors’ forum on 9 January.

 We also want to hear from PGR students about ways in which you think we should address the issues raised by students in the survey. Please do contact Hazel or PGR Director Claudia Lapping with any suggestions or comments. We will pass these on to the Supervisors’ forum.

You might also wish to raise any of these or similar issues with your supervisor, the Students’ Union or one of the PGR delegates, who represent doctoral students at the IOE’s committees.



1. Feedback

‘My supervisor provides extensive and detailed feedback – I am very lucky to get this.’

‘My supervisors feedback on drafts is detailed, focused and challenging’

‘At the initial stages I needed far more support, but as my research develops, my supervisor plays the role of protagonist – and needs to challenge…’

 ‘I wasted my first year or two because my supervisor would only see me if I had submitted something, and was then very critical, which meant I found it even harder to write.’

‘More detailed, less ‘global’ comments might sometimes be useful’

‘Lack about shared cultural background can lead to impossibility to decode comments and how they are meant.’

 •          Should we ask our students what kinds of feedback they find useful?

•          And/or, should we explain why we feel detailed feedback may not always be appropriate?

 N.B. A useful account of how students/supervisors can have different approaches and expectations re. writing and feedback:

 2. Regularity of contact and meetings

‘My supervisors are great, we meet regularly’

‘My supervisors were very supportive whilst I was abroad completing my fieldwork – I continued to have regular contact with them’

 ‘Because of the busy schedule of my supervisor, supervision has been rather sporadic’

‘It sometimes takes a long time to get to see my supervisor. Six weeks on average but sometimes longer’

‘If your supervisor has a personal assistant it can be difficult to arrange meetings’

 REMINDER: The expected number of supervision meetings are: 9-15 times a year for a full-time student; 6-9 times a year for a part-time student. These supervisions may average out across the duration of the student’s registration. See:

 •          To what extent may it be appropriate to for contact and meetings with students to vary to fit the supervisors’ schedule?

•          To what extent is this definitely not appropriate?

 N.B. If you know you have difficulty scheduling regular meetings with your PGR students, it might be useful to talk about this with your department PGR tutor.

 3. Structure and organisation

‘Great. My supervisors give me deadlines and feedback. They keep me on track in terms of preparation for upgrade, etc.’

‘My supervisor does not know how to help me structure my time or my thesis very well’

‘My supervisor failed to follow through with the internal reader of my thesis’

 •          To what extent is it our responsibility to help students structure their time, and/or their writing?

•          Do you feel confident that you can provide relevant support for all the many different aspects of the doctoral process?

•          What kinds of support from us might help you with this?

 4. Communication, respect, flexibility

‘I currently enjoy a good supervisory relationship … including open communication and a respect for my professional background.’     

‘I have been supported very caringly and compassionately by my supervisor although he admits to having limited knowledge’.

 ‘My supervisor wants my research to match his interests and to quote from his work, rather than enabling me to pursue my own line of enquiry.’

‘Even supervisors with the most outstanding achievements seem to shy away from intellectual challenges that are off their beaten track’

‘There are times when it seems that there is a pre ordained route that one is being shoehorned into’

 •          What are the difficulties when students’ interests differ from our own areas of expertise?

•          When and/or to what extent can/should we be able to accept challenges from students with different backgrounds?


One area where we didn’t score especially high in the quantitative results was in the questions on ‘Research Culture’. There was wide recognition that there are opportunities available, but the responses also raise some interesting issues we might consider:

 1. Specialist seminars?

‘The most useful seminars for my study have been [specialist group]. Doctoral School seminars are more generic.’

 •          Are there ways we might provide doctoral students with more consistent access to specialist seminars?

 2. Online seminars?

‘Distance makes attendance at seminars and meetings difficult.’

 •          Should we be automatically trying to make all research seminars available online?

 3. Spaces for interaction?

‘A research ambiance is linked to having a room or rooms and an environment where people can congregate … To say research culture feels limited to let’s get down to work…’

 •          Should we be thinking about how to create more informal spaces/events for interaction between researchers?

 4. Inclusivity of seminars?

‘… there is a weekly seminar but it tends to be taken by established researchers, and rarely by ioe doctoral students’

‘the seminars are interesting but dominated by the academic staff.’

 •          Should we find ways to make seminar programmes and attendance more inclusive?


FCL Workshops

The faculty held a successful workshop on the Literature Review on Thursday 21 November. The workshop was run by Professor Paul Dowling and over 40 doctoral students attended the session.    






Ethics in     Doctoral Research


With Dr     Claudia Lapping


Wednesday 11 December


12.30 – 13:30


Room 777






We will be holding the second of our faculty doctoral workshops on Ethics in Doctoral Research. This workshop will provide an opportunity to consider the kinds of ethical issues that emerge throughout all stages of research, from initial design and formal ethical review, to processes of data collection, analysis, writing and publication. All doctoral students and doctoral supervisors in the faculty are invited to attend.


You must register in advance for this workshop, as there will be some preliminary reading. Please contact  Hazel Croft by Friday 6 December at the latest:

 British Library Open Day for new Social Science for PhD students

The British Library is running an open day to introduce new PhD students in Social Sciences to the Library. These will take place on Friday 13th December. The Open Day is a chance for new PhD students to discover the Library’s unique research materials. Students will learn about the Library’s Social Sciences collections, find out how to access them, and meet BL staff and other researchers in their field.  Lunch and refreshments will be provided. A small number of £20 travel bursaries are available for students coming from outside Greater London.

British Library Conference Centre, London.

13 December 2013 / 10.00 – 16.30 / £5
You can find out more and book here:

 Follow us on Twitter!  

 We also have a Twitter account, where we will post news about events in IOE and elsewhere, conferences and any useful articles we come across. Twitter is now one of the most useful ways in which you can find out what is going on in the world of academia, research and beyond –  keep in touch and do follow us: @FCL_Doc