Postgraduate Supervision

Area of Interest

I am interested in supervising post-graduate students who are undertaking research in the following areas:

  • ethnographic filmmaking and video ethnography

  • development communication

  • participatory filmmaking

  • filmmaking for social change

My Approach to Supporting Candidates’ Research Projects

Key areas to address in supporting candidates to develop and conduct their research project include:

  • Understanding Research Practice

  • Developing A Research Proposal

  • Creating A Research Plan

  • Supporting Part-Time and Practice-Led Candidates

Understanding Research Practice

In their book ‘Real World Research’ Robson and McCartan (2016) state that historically there are traditions of research practice where one ‘is variously labelled as positivistic, natural-science based, hypothetico-deductive, quantitative or even simply ‘scientific’; the other as interpretive, ethnographic or qualitative…’ Research in the ‘Scientific’ field typically involves (a) Defining a problem (b) Establishing a hypothesis  (c) Designing an experiment to test the hypothesis  (d) Collecting data and examining the results, and (e) Modifying the theory. (Schieltz, 2020). My own experience as a researcher has been in the social sciences field. Research students that I supervise are also grounded in the social sciences and I draw on my own experiences to inform and support them. However, at the outset I ask students to understand the broader research landscape described above and to explain where they are positioning themselves.







Students must recognise research itself as an area of practice, and that their research has dual requirements and areas of focus. Students must recognise that, in conducting a research project, it is not enough to seek new knowledge in their field of study. They must also ensure the research process and methodology can withstand external and peer-group scrutiny so that outcomes are valid.


Developing A Research Proposal

The Sage Research Methods (2020) resource suggests a Research Plan should include:

  • The research question(s)

  • An outline of the proposed research methods 

  • A timetable for undertaking the research (2020) advise that a research proposal should include:

1. A title.
2. The main research question with a number of sub-questions.
3. The background to the study – why it is an important and interesting topic to study.
4. A brief background literature review, showing how the topic relates to the current  knowledge and issues.
5. A proposed methodology, explaining and justifying how the study will be conducted, methods to be used for data collection and analysis.
6. A proposed time schedule for the project, with key dates and the timing of each phase of the project.


A key text that I ask students to read is Developing Research Proposals (Denicolo et al, 2012). In my own supervision work, to help students develop their research proposal, I ask students to produce a mind map radiating around their broad research theme. This covers very similar areas to those identified by (2020). The specific areas I ask students to explore are:

Aim – central and sub research questions with a brief abstract or explanation

Statement – need for research and weaknesses identified

Methodology – the research design and conceptual framework

Significance – original contribution to existing knowledge, wider society benefits, timeliness Background Context – existing knowledge and practice, previous related research

Bibliography – key reference

Timeline – proposed timing









This is a template of a mind map I have used with research students to support them to develop their research plan.

Creating A Research Plan

A research plan identifies the key components of the research and organises them into a coherent structure. It is important for students to understand that the structure is critical to enable a methodical process of quality research that can lead to genuinely significant results that will stand external and peer-group scrutiny. A key text that I ask students to read is Practical Research: Planning and Design (Leedy and Ormrod, 2010). Often, an important component of a Research Plan in social science research is a Conceptual Framework, especially where a case-study methodology is proposed. Robson and McCartan (2016) state that a Conceptual Framework covers the main features (aspects, dimensions, factors, variables) of a case study and their presumed relationships.

Practice-Led Research and Part-Time Students

Watts (2008) discusses the specific challenges of supervising part-time researchers who often need to balance work and family commitments with academic study. They are, however, not a homogenous group but are all individuals with unique circumstances. Watts (Ibid) stresses the importance of supervisors adopting a student-centred pedagogy that ‘takes account of both the pastoral and academic elements of the supervisor/supervisee relationship’.


Dr Geoff Hill, of Birmingham City University, has used the Research Supervisors Network Blog (UKCGE, 2020) to discuss his own exploration of practice-led research. Explaining how, from the Greeks to the Renaissance, intellectual knowledge has always been favoured over practical knowledge, Hill (2020) discusses how practice-led research can, and should, be supported within academia. Hill suggests initially posing these questions to research students,

  • What do you know about your practice?

  • What do you know about investigative practice?

  • What do you know about university-based investigation and academic writing?


Which his own research students add to with such questions as:

  • What is your own relationship with the practice you are investigating? 

  • Do you consider yourself an insider/outsider to this profession?

  • What do you think are the critical incidents that have led to your development/understanding of your practice?

  • What are your own attitudes towards the aspects of the practice that you are investigating? Are you aware of any theoretical frameworks that may underpin these beliefs?

  • What sort of impact do you hope for your research to have e.g. on practice?


Hill (Ibid) stresses that central to effective practice-led research is self-reflection.


Denicolo, Pam, and Lucinda Becke (2012). Developing Research Proposals. 2012. UK. Sage.

Hill, G. (2020) Supervising Practice-Based Doctorates

[Accessed 26.6.2020]

Leedy, P and  Ormrod, J, (2010). Practical Research: planning and design. 9th Edition.

Upper Saddle River, NJ. Merrill.

Robson C and McCartan K, (2016) Real World Research. Wiley.

Sage Research Methods (2020). Research Design. [Accessed 5.6.2020]

Schieltz, M. (2020). Steps & Procedures for Conducting Scientific Research. [Accessed 4.6.2020]

Watts, Jacqueline. (2008) Challenges of supervising part-time PhD students: towards student-centred practice. Teaching in Higher Education, 13:3, 369-373

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