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How to contact a supervisor

Identifying the right supervisor

Choosing the right supervisor (or ‘advisor’) is essential. You’re going to be working with them very closely for the next 1.5–3.5 years, so you’re going to need to work well together.

While there may be many potential supervisors in your field, you need to find the right one for you.

You should ask questions of any potential supervisor about the way they work, and what they expect of their research students. This will help you decide if you're compatible. Make sure to consider what you're looking for in a mentor and make sure you're on the same page before committing to 1.5–3.5 years together.

Searching for a supervisor at UQ

Start by visiting UQ Researchers. You can search or browse by fields of research, and view profiles to start making a short list of potential supervisors.

Search UQ Researchers

Spend some time familiarising yourself with each researcher's published works and make notes. When you’ve narrowed it down, choose who you want to approach. It's considered respectful to only approach one potential supervisor at a time.

Alternatively, you might browse for an existing project that has a supervisor attached.

Contacting a potential supervisor

Supervisors are busy people; make it easy for them to quickly understand your suitability and how your research interests align.

Email them briefly with the following information:

  • study background
  • area of interest
  • your idea for a topic, or the existing project you are interested in joining
  • academic CV
  • why you think they might be the right supervisor for you
  • whether you are an international applicant planning to move to Australia
  • when you would like to commence – it must be at the start of one of the research quarters
  • whether you have identified a suitable scholarship to pay your living stipend and cover the costs of tuition. (Top tip: you should have already visited the Scholarships website and have some in mind!).

Write a research proposal

Once you have in-principle agreement, some advisors may ask you to develop a research proposal to submit with your application. Some schools or institutes have specific requirements, and your potential supervisor will be able to advise you, but – generally – your proposal should:

  • outline the research questions you’re trying to answer
  • discuss the impact your research could have on your field
  • include a preliminary analysis of existing research on your topic
  • document the methods and data sources you’ll use
  • introduce your supervisor and how their experience relates to your topic
  • meet the expected word count
  • include a detailed bibliography.

There may be other requirements, and some of the above may not apply. However, it’s good practice to write an initial research proposal, to share with your potential supervisor, if you’re proposing a project. This will help them understand your project’s suitability and how it may align with their own research. You can then work with them to decide what needs to be added or removed.