Finding a Supervisor (MA, MSc, & PhD only)

Choosing a Supervisor | Contacting Prospective Supervisors | Tips for Finding a Supervisor | Who can be a Supervisor? | Co-Supervison | The Supervisory Committee | Departure of a Supervisor

Choosing a Supervisor

Your supervisor is the key person in your graduate degree program. Supervisors should be available to help their students at every stage, from formulation of their research projects through establishing methodologies and discussing results, to presentation and possible publication of dissertations. Supervisors must also ensure that their students’ work meets the standards of the University and the academic discipline.

All prospective MA, MSc and PhD students must find an appropriate supervisor for their studies before submitting an application. These graduate programs are research-based so it is important to secure and identify a potential supervisor in your desired field of research.

Contacting Prospective Supervisors

Many faculty members do not actively advertise student positions, but still accept students. You can learn more about faculty members' research by browsing faculty profiles through the department websites, the Expert's Database, the Campus Directory or by exploring our Research Centres and Institutes. Remember to follow department specific instructions, if any, on how best to approach potential supervisors.  

When investigating prospective supervisors, follow these guidelines:

  1. First, view their profiles online and read a couple of their publications to familiarize yourself with their work.
  2. Write a brief email to them indicating your awareness of their research and how it fits with your interests (be specific, refer to their publications).
  3. Let them know your intention to apply to their graduate program & interest in working with them.
  4. Tell them a couple of strong points about your background and who you’ve worked with on research projects.
  5. Ask if it is OK to refer to them as a prospective supervisor in your application.

Developing productive relationships with your research supervisor and supervisory committee is one of the most important and rewarding aspects of being a graduate student.

If you have tried all of the above and are still having difficulties, you may wish to contact the appropriate Department Chair with the aforementioned information as she or he may be able to provide you with some guidance regarding which faculty members would be a good match for you and who might be accepting graduate students. 

Detailed information about the role of the supervisor and Supervisory Committee is available in program Policies & Procedures documents.

Tips for Finding a Supervisor

There is a lot you can learn about potential supervisors by looking into their publications

  • What topics does this person publish papers on? This will give you a sense of the type of research you would be doing
  • How active are they in publishing research?
  • Where is their name in the list of authors? If the supervisor's name is usually first then they may be more involved in writing manuscripts and may not want graduate students to be involved in this process. If graduate students' names are usually first then you can count on having first authorships as well.
  • How successful are this supervisor's former students? This may give you some indication of the capability of the supervisor.

Talk to some current graduate students who are working under this supervisor

  • What has been their experience working with this supervisor?
  • What is expected of them as graduate students working under this supervisor?
  • What did they expect of this supervisor coming into the program?
  • Has he/she met those expectations? Why or why not?
  • What do they feel are his/her weaknesses in terms of graduate supervision?

Student Comments: Choosing a supervisor

  • "Find out how a supervisor works by doing an assistantship or volunteering with him or her."
  • "Pick a supervisor who works the same way you do or approaches work the same way you do."
  • "Don't pick a supervisor who has too many students already."
  • "Take a course or courses taught by the supervisor before beginning your research, so you can find out their methodological biases."
  • "Choose someone you feel comfortable with. It's important to maintain an open and honest relationship as you work through your thesis research. Don't hook up with someone who is known to be difficult; it's not worth the effort. Understanding what your prospective supervisor expects of you as a graduate student can be essential."

Excerpted from UBC Website "Finding a Supervisor"

Who can be a Supervisor?

Any faculty member who is a member of the University of Lethbridge School of Graduate Studies is eligible to serve as a graduate student supervisor. Generally, this means any tenure-track faculty member who has been approved to supervise by their home faculty and is a:

  • Full Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Assistant Professor (some programs require Assistant Professors to co-supervise with a more senior faculty member).

Information about becoming a member of the SGS is available in the School of Graduate Studies Governing Principles


Supervision of a student can be shared by two co-supervisors. At least one co-supervisor must meet the criteria above. Upon approval by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, other well-qualified individuals may serve as co-supervisors. Individuals requiring special permission from the Dean of Graduate Studies to serve as a co-supervisors:

  • senior instructors
  • off-campus professionals

The Supervisory Committee

The supervisory committee consists of your supervisor and at least two other individuals (normally faculty members). Its role is to provide support by broadening and deepening the range of expertise and experience available  to you and your supervisor. The committee offers advice about and assessment of your work. 

Departure of a Supervisor

If a student's supervisor leaves the University but the thesis is close to completion the supervisor may, with the permission of the Dean of Graduate Studies, continue. In this case, a co-chair of the supervisory committee who is a full-time member of the School of Graduate Studies must be appointed. If the supervisor is unable to continue, every effort should be made by the graduate program to secure a new supervisor for the student.

If the Chair is on study leave or any other leave exceeding two months, it is highly recommended that an interim co-chair who is a member of the School of Graduate Studies be appointed.