Helping your supervisor help you – ten things to think about when submitting drafts

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Ploughing Old & New by Trevor Dennis Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License

It’s a really good idea to sort out with your supervisor how they would like you to work with them right from the beginning. Here are ten things that you can do that I think will really help your supervisor to give you good feedback on your drafts.

  1. Make a timeline plan and set yourself some deadlines to complete parts of your work. Send this to your supervisor so they know when to expect your work and can make themselves available or let you know in advance if they are not going to be able to look at it quickly. Then keep your deadlines!
  2. Send your supervisor parts of your work to look at frequently rather than waiting till you have a big lump finished near the end. You need to get advice before you get too far down the track so your supervisor can check you are on the right track and have the right scope.
  3. At the beginning you should send outlines and annotated bibliographies. Once you start writing you should send chunks of about 3000 words. Send the whole document, but point out which 3000 words you would like your supervisor to be commenting on. This way they can see the section in context, but don’t have to read a long document from the beginning. This will help them be able to get back to you more quickly. You can be working on another section while your supervisor checks over the one you have sent them.
  4. Although your early drafts will not be expected to be completely well-crafted writing, you should pay attention to spelling and punctuation and make sure your writing is at least somewhat understandable! It can be hard for your supervisor to see past really poor writing and be able to comment on the actual content.
  5. Include your name on the document, a date and page numbers. Save the electronic file with your name in the title.
  6. Use Word’s heading level styles so your supervisor can easily see the sections of your document and where the chunk you are sending fits in, even if the other sections are not yet complete. See this post for help using Word’s heading styles.
  7. Include a table of contents with page numbers. See this post for help making tables of contents in Word.
  8. Always always always include a reference list . You need to work with Endnote (or your other reference management software) right from the word go so getting set up with this should be one of your first priorities.
  9. Your supervisor might insert comments and tracked changes into your electronic document. Ensure you are set up to view these and understand how to remove comments as you deal with them. See this post for more detail on using tracked changes in Word.
  10. Deal with every single comment your supervisor makes. Do not ignore them!
  • Sometimes your supervisor will make suggestions you don’t agree with. You must still address them. You need to explain to your supervisor why you don’t think you should make that change and provide your reasons when you submit your next draft. Using the comments tool in Word is a good way to do this.
  • Sometimes you will think of a better way to deal with the issue the supervisor raises. So tell your supervisor about this with comments in your next draft.
  • Sometimes you might not understand a supervisor’s comment. You need to think carefully about it. Do some more reading. Give it some time. If you still really don’t understand, then ask for clarification on the next draft.
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