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Eric Dayton, Philosophy Faculty

Student and Supervisor

How do you view the roles of Graduate student and Supervisor?

I guess I think that... there are two hard tasks for beginning graduate students, who are trying to, I guess they're not beginning, but who are trying to write a thesis. One is to have enough breadth, background knowledge, which means reading a lot of stuff. It means doing a lot of extra reading. The second thing is to develop a thesis that's clear and cogent and well-written. A lot of my supervisory activity goes into asking a student to clarify what they've said. They write some stuff, and we talk about it, and by talking about it, I hope, anyway, the student gets a clearer idea of what he or she was trying to write ... It's one thing to write something, because when you're writing you hear the writing in your head, and by the time you've written three words, you've already said ten sentences in your head, so you know where you're going, you know what you mean, but the reader may not know. Learning to write for the reader rather than write to get your thoughts out quickly is a... skill but it's also something that you discover: 'Wow, I never knew that people would think that from this.' Part of the task of the supervisor is just to be an audience, a critical audience, an audience that says, 'I didn't understand what you said.'