Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription Access

The Research Supervisor's Expertise or Postgraduate Student Preparedness: Which Is the Real Concern?

Lizeth Roets, Delene Botha, Leana van Vuuren


The increased number of postgraduate students has contributed to an increased need for competent researchers locally and internationally. This raises questions about the supervisor’s competency and need for training on the one hand and the competency and preparedness of the registered postgraduate student on the other.

Eleven supervisors from a school of nursing participated in a nominal group discussion in an attempt to identify the problems experienced in their supervisory practice. The highest ranked problems identified were the need for training for themselves, students’ lack of critical thinking skills and knowledge regarding the scope of postgraduate studies, the high workload of supervisors and the level of language proficiency of students.

The conclusion was that compulsory, content-focused educational programmes should be created to provide supervisors with the knowledge and skills required for the supervisory task. Managing their high workload requires supervisors to apply aspects of project management, time management and additional supervisory styles, and these topics should form part of these educational programmes. These programmes must also include elements such as assisting and/or referring students who lack critical thinking skills, language proficiency, computer literacy as well as general preparedness for postgraduate studies for comprehensive assistance.


research; supervision; supervision training; postgraduate students

Full Text:



Bitzer, E.M., and R.M. Albertyn. 2011. "Alternative Approaches to Postgraduate Supervision: A Planning Tool to facilitate Supervisory Processes." South African Journal of Higher Education 25 (5): 875–888.

Borders, L.D., K.L. Wester, D.H. Granello, C.Y. Chang, D.G. Hays, J. Pepperell, and S.L. Spurgeon. 2012. "Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Guidelines for Research Mentorship: Development and Implementation." Counselor Education & Supervision 51: 162–175.

Botma, Y., M. Greeff, F.M. Mulaudzi, and S.C.D. Wright. 2010. Research in Health Sciences. Pretoria: Pearson Education.

Chiappetta-Swanson, C., and S. Watt. 2011. Good Practice in the Supervision & Mentoring of Postgraduate Students. Ontario: McMaster University Press.

Creech, J., and C. Aplin-Kalisz. 2011. "Developing a Selection Method for Graduate Nursing Students." Journal of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners 23 (8): 404–409.

Delbecq, A.L., A.H. van de Ven, and D.H. Gustafson. 1975. Group Techniques for Program Planning. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman and Co.

Firth, A., and E. Maartens. 2008. "Transforming Supervisors? A Critique of Post-liberal Approaches to Research Supervision." Teaching in Higher Education 13 (3): 279–289, June.

Halse, C. 2011. "Becoming a Supervisor: The Impact of Doctoral Supervision on Supervisors' Learning." Studies in Higher Education 36 (5): 557–570.

Harvey, N., and C.A. Holmes. 2012. "Nominal Group Technique: An Effective Method for obtaining Group Consensus." International Journal of Nursing Practice 18 (2): 188–194.

Hitch, D., M. Taylor, and G. Pepin. 2015. "Occupational Therapy with People with Depression: Using Nominal Group Technique to collate Clinician Opinion." Scandinavian Journal of Occupational Therapy 22 (3): 216–225.

Hodza, F. 2007. "Managing the Student-supervisor Relationship for Successful Postgraduate Supervision: A Sociological Perspective." South African Journal of Higher Education 21 (8): 1155–1165.

Kiley, M. 2011. "Developments in Research Supervisor Training: Causes and Responses." Studies in Higher Education 36 (5): 585–599.

Lee, A.M. 2007. "Developing Effective Supervisors: Concepts of Research Supervision." South African Journal of Higher Education (4): 680–693.

Lee, Anne. 2008. "How are Doctoral Students Supervised? Concepts of Doctoral Research Supervision." Studies in Higher Education 33 (3): 267–281. doi:10.1080/03075070802049202.

Manathunga, C., and J. Goozee. 2007. "Challenging the Dual Assumption of the Always/Already Autonomous Student and Effective Supervisor." Teaching in Higher Education 12 (3): 309–322, June.

McMillan, J.H., and S. Schumacher. 2010. Research in Education: Evidence-based Inquiry, 7th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson.

Pearson, M., and A. Brew. 2010. "Research Training and Supervision Development." Studies in Higher Education 27 (2): 135–150.

Roets, L. 2013. "Learning through Reflection: Supervising DRC Master's Degree Students within the Open Distance and Learning Context." Journal of Nursing Education and Practice 3 (10): 139–149.

Roets, L. 2016. "Supervisory Practices in the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Context: A Review." Gender and Behaviour 14 (1): 7161–7170.

Roets, L., and J.E. Maritz. 2013. "Challenges, Opportunities and Achievements of Nurses' Research Supervision across Language Borders." African Journal for Physical Health Education, Recreation and Dance (September Supplement 1): 68–79.

Schulze, S. 2008. "Academic Research at a South African Higher Education Institution: Quality Issues." South African Journal of Higher Education 22 (3): 644–661.

Severinsson, E. 2010. "Discovering the Value of Research Supervision." Nursing and Health Sciences 12 (4): 400–401.

Severinsson, E. 2012. "Research Supervision: Supervisory Style, Research-related Tasks, Importance and Quality – Part 1." Journal of Nursing Management 20: 215–223.

Snowden, A. 2014. "Against Intimacy: Focusing on the Task in Hand in PhD Supervision." British Journal of Nursing 23 (21): 1126–1132.

Uys, L.R., and H.C. Klopper. 2012. Trends in Nursing: 2012. Pretoria: FUNDISA.

Wang, T., and L.Y. Li. 2011. "'Tell me what to do' vs 'guide me through it': Feedback Experiences of International Doctoral Students." Active Learning in Higher Education 12 (2): 101–188.

Yen, T., and S.H. Halili. 2015. "Effective Teaching of Higher Order Thinking (HOT) in Education." The Online Journal of Distance Education and E-learning 3 (2): 41–47.



  • There are currently no refbacks.