The Supervisor provides on-going advice and guidance, as well as constructive critical reviews of the student’s progress and work.  Consequently, staff should only agree to undertake supervision if they feel appropriately qualified and up-to-date in the specific field of the project and able to be involved in supervision for the likely duration of the research program. A potential Supervisor must be a full-time or fractional-time member of the academic staff of the student’s Enrolling Area and hold a Doctoral or Master’s research degree (as appropriate) or approved equivalent.

Roles and responsibilities of the Supervisor


Administrative responsibilities

Supervisors should oversee the following administrative areas:

  • Application for Admission
  • Hazard Identification Tool (HIT) for hazardous materials
  • Application for Candidacy
    – Research Ethics Approval
    – Request for Extension of Time to Submit Application for Candidacy
  • Variation to Candidacy Details
  • Annual Progress Reports (APR) – The student submits an APR in March of each year.  The Supervisor also submits a Supervisor’s Report and there should be a discussion between both parties prior to submission of these reports.
  • Arrangements for temporary supervision of the student if the Supervisor is unable to supervise the student for a period exceeding three months.  Changes to the Thesis Committee in this instance should be made using the Supervisor Leave Arrangements form.
  • Approval of student’s Leave of Absence
  • Application for Conference Support
  • Nomination of Examiners – It is advisable to begin this process about three months prior to thesis submission.  It is recommended that Examiners have at least three years of research experience since completion of a Higher Degree.
  • Release of Thesis for Examination
  • Corrections/amendments to thesis after examination prior to final binding.  The Supervisor is responsible for overseeing any corrections which may have been requested by the examiners and advised by the Chairperson.  It is also the Supervisor’s responsibility to continue to supervise the student in the event of a re-submission.

Notes:  Under certain circumstances, and with approval from the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee, a Supervisor may be appointed from another Enrolling Area.  Written approval from the Heads of both Enrolling Areas concerning supervision arrangements must be included with any documentation submitted to the Faculty Graduate Studies Committee for consideration An example of such a circumstance could be where a student is nearing completion and their primary supervisor leaves the University, with no staff available in the area to continue supervision duties.


In general, supervision of a student will involve suggesting guidelines for undertaking the research project, giving detailed advice on methods to ensure completion to a satisfactory standard within expected time frames, as well as development of the student’s understanding, ability and independence in the field of research.  It is expected that the Supervisor will meet with the student on a regular basis and will document the student’s progress.

Supervisor responsibilities

  • Be familiar with University, Faculty and Enrolling Area requirements in respect of Higher Degree by Research students;
  • Be familiar with the field of study;
  • Have the sufficient time available to supervise the project; and
  • Make suitable arrangements for alternative supervision in advance if unable to supervise the Student for a period exceeding three months and allow for adequate handover to ensure continuity (Changes to the thesis committee in this instance should be made using the Supervisor Leave Arrangements form.)

Establishing the supervisory relationship

  • Discuss with the student the supervisory role and the mutual expectations it involves so that these are thoroughly understood.  See the Guidelines for Establishing the Higher Degree by Research Supervisory Relationship;
  • Establish a routine for regular meetings;
  • Initiate preliminary discussion on the project’s budget and advise on the funding available through the HDR Student Consumables Allowance that will be available post-candidacy approval;
  • Assist with the setting of goals and objectives.

Research integrity training

Online training in research integrity has been introduced at Curtin for both research students and research academic staff.  The training explains the key responsibilities of researchers, identifies challenges in meeting those responsibilities, and strategies to deal with challenges.  The training also aims to ensure students and staff understand requirements and responsibilities in relation to research ethics, confidentiality, data storage and records, regulations and governance.

The Research Integrity Professional Development program was developed by Epigeum, a leading publisher of online courses.  It has been developed for the Australian legal and policy environment and implemented in several Australian universities.  The Curtin Research Integrity Professional Development program has also been customised to Curtin’s policy environment.

The student training is in Blackboard, accessed via Student OASIS.  Students must first log into Student OASIS, then click on the link to Blackboard.  The appears under the heading ‘My Units’.  Research students are required to completed the training prior to submitting their Application for Candidacy.

Research academic staff complete the training on iPerform, via Staff OASIS.

More information is provided in the Research Integrity Professional Development document.

Working towards candidacy

  • Be able to assist the student to define a project which can be completed in the prescribed time frame;
  • Provide suggestions on initial background literature;
  • Encourage the student to attend Preparing the Candidacy Application and Research Proposal seminars offered by the Graduate Research School;
  • Set the overall time frame with achievable and measurable milestones;
  • Assist the student in understanding the ethics requirements for the study; and
  • Assist the student in understanding the safety requirements for the study (hazardous materials/general safety).

Maintaining the supervisory relationship

  • Have regular meetings with the student – both formal and informal meetings are important;
  • Provide constructive feedback promptly to issues relating to student progress; and
  • Ensure that communication with other members of the thesis committee is efficient and effective.

Developing student research capabilities

  • Foster the development of the student’s understanding, ability and independence in the field of research;
  • Be able to assist the student to identify training opportunities which would enhance their skills;
  • Encourage interaction with other research students;
  • Encourage interaction with other academics, professionals and professional associations;
  • Encourage papers or posters to be presented at conferences; and
  • Mentor student in future career options (e.g. teaching).

Preparing the thesis

Supervisors should encourage frequent writing exercises to prepare the way towards writing the thesis and be involved in the thesis preparation by:

  • Discussing its overall design and style and pointing to exemplary models in earlier theses;
  • Ensuring the student is aware that at least six months is required to write up and assist in planning the stages and milestones that should be reached through this period;
  • Planning a timeline for submission of draft work for feedback;
  • Discuss achievable timelines for reviewing of work promptly and returning it with constructive feedback;
  • Ensure that the final thesis is of sufficient quality and standard of English expression to have a high probability of success.  Please do not fall into the trap of writing the thesis on the student’s behalf.  A Supervisor does not have to recommend a thesis for examination if the student consistently fails to take advice and the thesis is likely to fail.