Setting up the proper communication tools with your thesis supervisor is a necessary evil if you want to make sure that the time that you will spend with him/her will be constrictive and interesting.

Setting Up the Proper Communication Tools with your Thesis's Supervisor

First of all let’s start with what you achieved so far and congratulation for reaching this stage in your studies! This implies that you have a (more or less) clear idea on what you would like to do at the end of your thesis/studies and that you have a thesis topic that is triggering your curiosity and you would like to know more about. If that is not the case you may want to read this article that suggests you how to take the most from your thesis. Also, please note, this is not instructions on “how to write your thesis” but limits itself in the preparatory work that you need to do before start working at your thesis.

When interacting with your supervisor you have to understand the following:

  • He/She is probably mentoring several students at the same time.
  • He/She is probably more busy then should be and is probably dedicating  50-60 hours/week to his/her job.
  • He/She maybe doing other things like teaching and research while supervising you.

Consequently, without a proper set of communication tools with your thesis supervisor, your email may be “lost in the chaos”. He/she may not read your emails and attachments with various version of your thesis may just “contribute to the noise”. On the other hand, if you will make an effort in keeping the material that you plan to share with him/her ordered, he/she may be able to quickly follow what you are doing and the majority of the time that you will spend together will be actually spent in improving the state of your thesis.

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Sharing a folder is one of the best communication tools with your thesis supervisor that I was able find. Obviously, the tool itself is not sufficient and how you will structure the material inside plays a crucial role as well. Probably this is not new to you and you may have your own way to do that: maybe using Google Drive, Dropbox, SharePoint etc. However, you want to check if and how your supervisor currently operating because, as he/she is probably supervising several students at the same time, adopting one system for each student is simply unmanageable. What follows is what I usually recommend to my students. I personally use Dropbox but these recommendations can be easily generalized.

Why did I choose Dropbox? Because is free and I like the idea of having a folder that is the same in every computer that I use. In case you do not have an account this is an invitation link that will give you 250 MB of free space on top of the 2-5 GB that you will normally have. Nevertheless, let me say again that this is just how I personally operate and is important that you will check with your supervisor how he/she would like to set up the proper communication tools with you!

Communication tools with your thesis supervisor step by step

Step 1: Download and install Dropbox in the computer that you will use for your thesis.

Step 2: Create a shared folder in Dropbox. The title of the folder should have your name and the word “thesis” in it, so that it will not be confusing with potential others.  It like having a normal folder in your computer with the exception that will be shared with your supervisor. In other words every time you will change the files inside the folder your supervisor will see it and you will see the changes that he/she will make as well.

Step 3: Invite your supervisor to the shared folder. Just ask for your supervisor’s Dropbox id and follow the proper procedure.

Step 3:  Create the following structure into the folder.

  • Articles: will contains all the scientific articles that you will be reading and you believe are relevant to your thesis.
  • Data: if your thesis will be collecting data. This folder will contain information on how the data are structured and the data
  • Thesis-Proposal: you probably had to write a thesis proposal to pitch for an internship and/or to validate your preliminary idea. This folder should contains “everything that you have done” before starting the thesis.
  • Presentations: relevant PowerPoint presentation.
  • Chapter-1: You probably are not going to write your thesis “all in once”. If you will break the thesis in chapters you will have the possibility to finalize once chapter and ask to your supervisor for an early feedback.
  • Chapter-2: see chapter 1 comment.
  • Chapter-N: yep, as many as you need. I guess the last one should be conclusions
  • Appendix: in case you plan to have multiple appendixes consider adding sub-folders into this folder
  • Final-Thesis: should contains your “final draft” and your camera ready thesis.

The structure should be as self-explanatory as possible. Obviously, you are welcome to arrange the folder in the way you prefer and to add other sub-folders. Nevertheless, this is the minimum structure that I would like you to consider and always (did I said always? let’s do it again: always) agree with your supervisor on the proper structure. You think that you are sharing folder but in practice you are sharing “mental categories” with him/her.

Final remarks

Setting up the proper communication tools with your thesis supervisor in the end will save you time and will allow a more effective communication. Communication will probably happen via email and/or Skype; nevertheless, you can always point to the shared folder for additional explanation: “I just finished chapter 2, can you please have a look?”. “I found this article in google scholar, is it really relevant?”. “What do you think about visualizing the data in this way?”etc.

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