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How to find the right PhD supervisor

Before submitting a PhD proposal to a university, it is advisable to find a potential supervisor who has an interest in your project and who can help you to develop your proposal before you submit an application to a university. This article will cover a few examples of how you can find the right supervisor based on advice from Dr Ioannis Patelidis of the University of Brighton’s Doctoral College.

Search by course – You can type your field of interest into a search engine followed by PhD supervisor and you will have several results come up for institutions and their PhD offerings. For example, if searching for hospitality PhD courses, you will find the tourism and hospitality PhD page from the University of Brighton, which goes into the history of studies around tourism and hospitality at the university. If you scroll down further, you will see a list of some the supervisors, and if you ‘click more’ you will find a list of what supervisors are researching in particular. If what you are researching matches what they are researching, this could be a good fit for you.

Search by course and supervisor – Another way of finding a supervisor is to also include the word ‘lecturer’ in your search.

Search via research portal – Another way to search for a supervisor is to use the university’s research portal. The University of Brighton uses, with other universities use similar formats. On this portal you can search lecturer’s profiles, subject area or articles. You can also see organisational units that are related to your search, such as schools and centres of research at the university. If you click on these you can find out more information such as their membership, articles published by the group and also a map showing the geographical network of the group. This helps give you a deeper understanding of the culture of the particular individuals in that network.

Search by published journal papers – Searching by your subject area and the keywords ‘journal paper’ will give results of scholarly articles. This can introduce you to names of thinkers in your subject area. You can then search further into these names, and find which universities they are associated to. A specific website where you can find these is, which has a wealth of published papers and information on academics and researchers. Another similar website is

Attend research conferences – More and more conferences are becoming digital and are often free to enter or have cheap tickets. Attending these conferences or summits offer the opportunity to network, as you can find potential supervisors directly, or help put you in touch with a potential supervisor.

Once you have a final list of potential supervisors, to help narrow them down, Dr Pantelidis suggests looking at their university’s website and find information about how they accept proposals, what should be included and how long it should be. Then develop the proposal to the best of your ability. Once this is done, construct an email where you introduce yourself to the potential supervisor, attaching the proposal. In the email you should explain why you are interested in this particular area of study and how your area aligns to theirs, whether you have approached any other universities, whether you are interested in studying as either a full-time or part-time student, and also how you are planning to finance it. As undertaking a PhD is a huge commitment, make sure you contact the universities on order of your preference, take the time to allow your supervisor to get back to you, and if you are offered a place, consider thoughtfully if this is the best place to undertake your PhD.

You can watch Dr Pantelidis’ video below.


Olivia Weatherill • February 16, 2021

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