My first PhD student is having his viva tomorrow. Hence, I began contemplating a bit about the whole process of supervising. One thing I realized is that while there seems to be plenty of advice for PhD students I cannot recall ever seeing advice for supervisors. So

  1. What resources are available for PhD supervisors?
  2. If you are experienced supervisor, then what would be your advice?
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    $\begingroup$ You may find something interesting in Handbook for PhD SUPERVISORS by LSE: lse.ac.uk/intranet/LSEServices/TLC/Publication%20files/… $\endgroup$
    – Waldemar
    Sep 14 '15 at 10:14
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    $\begingroup$ What is a viva? $\endgroup$ Sep 14 '15 at 10:17
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    $\begingroup$ "Viva" is a term I always associate with English universities. In C.P. Snow's introduction to A Mathematician's Apology, he recounts meeting Hardy for the first time when, learning that Snow had an interest in cricket (and interviewing him as potential cricket companion), he put Snow through a "moderately stiff viva", peppering him with various hypothetical questions such as what he would do as captain of this or that team. Anyway, looking it up just now, it's short for viva voce and it's a synonym for oral examination (which thesis defenses -- or is it defences here? :-) -- tend to be). $\endgroup$
    – Todd Trimble
    Sep 14 '15 at 11:50
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    $\begingroup$ For advising not specific to mathematics, maybe try academia.stackexchange.com $\endgroup$ Sep 14 '15 at 13:47
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    $\begingroup$ @Greg: In mathematics, my short experience (as a grad student anyway) is that nothing labeled "clearly" is ever "clear". :-) $\endgroup$
    – Asaf Karagila
    Oct 30 '15 at 16:13

There is a previous MO thread about this: Resources for mathematics advising.

Here is a list of resources:

In my personal work with students, I set goals for them and insist that they document their progress with draft manuscripts. My work with them on these drafts often leads to conference papers. My students always publish before they finish, sometimes jointly with me and sometimes on their own, depending on the degree of my own involvement.

Going off my own experience: there is a lot of value to an early publication before starting the thesis process. I think it builds confidence and probably also helps when the student hits the job market.

Hope that helps!


A new blog post came out yesterday from the AMS, with some nice advice:



I think the below book is very good for both students and their supervisors. I hope it can be helpful.

"HOW TO GET A PhD, A handbook for students and their supervisors-FIFTH EDITION", by ESTELLE M. PHILLIPS and DEREK S. PUGH.


Of course a supervisor has to work hard in helping his student to study,to learn and to get good results. I think that is his job. But, in my opinion , it is not a good thing to sign any publication as joint work with his student (at least before his viva !). This does not help to evaluate the work done by the student himself, and it does not help much more in his forthcoming career. A common publication by a supervisor and his student (before getting PhD) is not, in general, beneficial to the student. But the student must be helped to publish as soon as possible (in his own name ). I think so.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree with the first part of the first part of this part, as far as evaluation in France in fundamental math is concerned. If the main PhD works of a student are cosigned with the advisor, it is widely interpreted as the sign that the student was helped by the advisor more than one would have wished. I'm aware of different traditions in other countries, although I don't approve it. The goal of a PhD IMHO is to transform a student with a substantial mathematical luggage into an independent researcher and an expert in his/her field. (...) $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Jan 10 '18 at 0:55
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    $\begingroup$ (...) This is also why I disapprove the last claim "the student must be helped to publish as soon as possible": the benefit of a thesis is that for at least 1 or 2 years publishing is not a priority and enhance quality and deepness of research can be performed, rather that stampede to quick publication or assisted publication. $\endgroup$
    – YCor
    Jan 10 '18 at 0:57

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