Tips and tricks

Supervision is a very important factor in the success of your PhD project. Here we provide some general tips on collaborating successfully with your supervisors. You can discuss these matters during your annual Assessment and Development Interview, but also at another time. In the Netherlands, you can approach your supervisors directly, in case you encounter problems.

CLEAR UP EXPECTATIONS

Ask from the start, for example:

  • What is the expected output at the end of the project?
  • What are your expectations for the coming weeks?
  • How should you communicate about the project, and how often?
  • Should you make appointments for consultation in advance, or can you just walk in if you have questions?
  • How do you organise appointments? For example, it may be useful to send the supervisor an agenda for the meeting one week in advance, and to make your intended outcome of the meeting explicit. Also, making minutes of the meeting helps to keep the process structured.
  • What is your budget for research expenses, courses, and conference visits?
  • For which issues should you contact the promotor, and for which issues the daily supervisor?
  • How are the project tasks distributed between you and your supervisors? Who does what?
  • Is it allowed to contact other research groups (and possibly) collaborate?
  • What if there are too many supervisors? Or if a subfield is not covered? Please note that according to the rules, a maximum of four is allowed: two supervisors and two co-supervisors.
  • Ask the supervisor(s) to confirm important decisions or agreements in writing (by e-mail).
GET FEEDBACK

Ask for continuous feedback, for example:

  • What are your strong points?
  • What are your points for improvement?
GIVE FEEDBACK

Let your supervisor(s) know what you need, for example:

  • Do you meet too (in)frequently?
  • On what subjects do you need more/less feedback?
  • What is, and what is not, working for you?

Determine the agenda for the meetings with your supervisor(s) and the supervision yourself. Take responsibility for your own development process.

GO TO CONFERENCES

Conferences are great opportunities to gain new insights, receive feedback on your work, and broaden your research network. Discuss with your supervisor(s) whether you should submit an abstract and present your work (this is usually a requirement). Please note that conferences usually cost money; be sure to discuss this with your supervisor(s). Some conferences offer travel or other grants, for which you can apply.

ACQUIRE INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE

It is highly recommended to visit other (international) research laboratories or to do a research internship. It will help you: 

  • to gain insights into benefits and drawbacks of different research environments; 
  • to provide opportunities for different feedback and ideas for your research;
  • to broaden your research network.

Some organizations offer travel grants or scholarships to PhD candidates wishing to spend a number of months in another country. Contact the Research Support Office for information.

TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR WORK

For official work travel abroad, up to a certain maximum of days, UU employees can use Utrecht University's travel insurance. The policy covers some or all of the normal risks of claims that employees might make during business trips; work travel is often not insured in consumer packages.

COMMUNICATION SKILLS AND ACTIVITIES (INCLUDING THESIS PRINTING)

Intranet provides useful advice on various communication activities, for example: 

Representation

PhD representation councils and organizations provide useful information on PhD-related matters.

PHD COUNCIL

The GSNS PhD Council consists of PhD candidates working at the Science Faculty. They represent PhD candidates within the faculty and organize events for PhD candidates. Contact Iris ten Have (i.c.tenhave@uu.nl), currently chair of the council, for more information.

PROUT

Promovendi Overleg Utrecht (Prout) represents the interests of all PhD candidates from Utrecht University. It is an association formed by volunteer PhD candidates from all graduate schools within the university. They provide information on many topics, e.g. taxes for PhD candidates, and a PhD guide with information on, e.g. the rights and regulations for PhD candidates (simplified version), finances, and finishing your PhD.

PNN

Promovendi Netwerk Nederland (PNN) is the national association of PhD candidates from all Dutch universities, and represents the interests of PhD candidates on a national level. Their website provides information on many PhD related topics. They furthermore organize the National PhD Day.