Getting started on the project is one of the most difficult aspects of doing a doctorate. Doctoral researchers are likely to need a lot of support and guidance from you at this stage.


Encourage your researchers to become part of the department’s academic culture. Introduce doctoral candidates to relevant people, groups and seminars. Encourage them to present their progress of their research to fellow researchers.

Set objectives with your researchers

During the early stages of the doctorate it is important to help your researchers set appropriate objectives. Make sure your researchers have:

  • defined their area of research
  • done a comprehensive literature survey
  • submitted some written work to you, even in draft format
  • worked with you to develop an outline plan for the doctorate with defined goals and intermediate milestones
  • understood the requirements that they need to meet for any transfer or upgrade process required by your institution.

Encourage personal development

Encourage your researchers to develop relevant professional skills and to undertake appropriate training. The Vitae Researcher Development Framework may be a useful starting point. Researchers' development might include skills courses, academic seminars, work experience or other forms of personal, professional and career development.

It is useful if you make it clear to your researchers that their personal and professional development is an important aspect of their doctorate so they don’t feel precluded from taking time out from working on their research project to do professional development activities and attend courses.

Help your researchers assess their own progress

Your institution or department will have requirements for reporting on progress. Ensure that you and your researchers understand these requirements and include them in the research plan. It helps if you provide regular feedback to your researchers on their progress.


This content has been adapted from content on the Vitae website.