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

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

Note: Applicants applying to all majors in the Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc), and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs must find a potential supervisor, except applicants applying for the Economics major in the MA program.

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 (except for Economics major), 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?