Dissertation Supervisor: Roles and Help

Throughout your dissertation, an academic supervisor will support you. One will be given to you through a process by which your programme allocates academic supervisors to students which may allow you to seek one you prefer.

Academic Advice

Ideally, the academic supervisor will have a background expertise in your area of study. Still, there are cases in which this is not possible and the supervisor assigned to you may not have the specialised expertise in your specific subject. Their specialisation may be on another topic but they have sufficient knowledge on the general area where your subject is part. Whatever the subject background of the supervisor, he or she has sufficient knowledge of the research process.

If you will be given an academic supervisor who is a ‘non-expert’ in your area of study, you are allowed to consult with a subject expert, provided that you do so under your academic supervisor’s guidance. Usually, the input of the subject expert will be limited to the extent of advice about the literature review.

Specific Roles

The academic supervisor performs many functions. In dissertation writing, the role of the supervisor is not to lead but rather to facilitate. You, the student, have the full responsibility for the quality and content of the dissertation.

The roles of the supervisor include:

  1. feasibility guide – advising the student regarding whether the project can be doable and the risks that may be involved; examples are problems that can be encountered in gathering information, potential poor response rates to surveys concerning commercially sensitive issues

  2. plan advisor – assisting the student in adjusting the proposal to resource limitations including time

  3. academic research and writing adviser – assisting the student right from the start in finding useful and relevant reading material and appropriate academic framework within which to place the topic

  4. methodology adviser – advising on the choice of suitable methodological approaches

  5. dissertation coach – monitoring the progress and advising on the what is required to achieve a satisfactory dissertation.

  6. liaison – in applicable programmes, liaising periodically with the company supervisor and resolve any problems the student may have in obtaining access to company information or personnel

  7. dissertation marker – marking the dissertation for the first time (first-mark) and submit a report of such marking


Academic supervisors will not read the finished work prior to submission and will not make any comment at any stage as to the expected grade or mark. They will not also check for mistakes in grammar and expression. Further, the academic supervisor has the discretion to read and comment on chapter outlines and browse through other chapters.

You can ask them to read in detail a draft of a portion of your dissertation, usually up to a maximum of two chapters, and give you feedback on its presentation, content and style. That is only one of the many roles of the supervisor in your dissertation. Nevertheless, these roles are limited to advising you and, at most, helping you.

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