The Responsibilities of Thesis and Dissertation Students
Most postgraduate research and the theses and dissertations that grow from it are student driven, and the enthusiasm, initiative and persistence of candidates are often considered to be as important as their research topics and written work. In most cases it is your job as the student to determine exactly what your responsibilities are, and supervisors will vary in the degree to which they are willing to encourage you in making the necessary discoveries. It is your thesis or dissertation, after all, and you are the one who will receive the degree if you are successful.
Universities tend to set a specific amount of time within which a thesis or dissertation must be completed and examined in order for a candidate to receive a degree. This deadline will probably already be well known to you, but there are a number of other less obvious deadlines that will also require careful planning. You may, for instance, have to draft parts of your thesis within a certain period of time, and have them approved by your committee members before proceeding further. Your university’s or institute’s approval of your research project may involve finishing that research within a given amount of time, and may not allow the repetition of tests and procedures without additional approval. Your supervisor and other committee members will require a reasonable amount of time (two weeks is common) to read and provide feedback on any piece of writing you share with them. In addition, there are always forms and other bureaucratic procedures that must be completed at various stages in the degree process, with frustrating delays and complications resulting if they are not.
As a postgraduate student, you will need to be aware of all such deadlines and requirements and design your own work schedule around them, and you should also do your best to learn of any unusual circumstances that may affect your progress. For example, perhaps your supervisor or another committee member will be away for a period of time and therefore unable to provide feedback on your research or writing, a situation that may require some careful planning on your part.
When it comes to the nature of your research and the content of your writing, your supervisor may use discussions and comments to nudge you in the right directions, but it is your responsibility to conduct your research in appropriate and approved ways, to present and analyse that research honestly and effectively, to master to an acceptable degree the language in which you are working, to write your thesis or dissertation clearly and professionally, and to observe all university guidelines regarding the length, style, format and referencing methods of your text. You will also need to discuss your work and the responses it receives from your supervisor and other mentors in a mature and respectful manner, revising and improving your methods, analysis and writing in accordance with the advice your receive from them.
Finally, if necessary, you will be the one who has to take the initiative in resolving any issues or problems in your research or in your intellectual relationship with your supervisory committee that may arise during your degree process. Keep in mind that while the responsibility is yours to determine your academic or scientific success as a postgraduate student, the career rewards will also be yours and well worth the effort.
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