Grad Coach Q&A:
How is Grad Coach different from a university supervisor?

By: Derek Jansen | April 2020

Every day, dozens of students around the world call us for assistance with their dissertations, theses and research projects. One question that comes up quite often is “how is Grad Coach different from my supervisor?”. It’s a great question, and the answer is quite lengthy, so we’ve drawn up this post to help explain the difference between what we do and what a supervisor or advisor does.

Grad Coach vs Supervisor

Caveat – naturally, the exact role of the supervisor varies from university to university, and there are “good” supervisors (that go above and beyond their job description) as well as “bad” supervisors that provide students with near-zero support. For the sake of this article, we’ll compare Grad Coach with the “typical” supervisor role – so you might find that your supervisor does a little more, or a little less than what we describe here.

There are many differences, but we’ll cover 5 key differences below. The key features of Grad Coach that differentiate it from a supervisor are explained below:

Let’s look at these differences in a bit more detail:

1: Unlimited, on-tap, multi-format support

Typically, a supervisor or advisor has a set amount of time that they are allowed to give a student, as per the university’s agreement with them, so there is a hard limit to how much you can engage with them, and since their time is a limited resource, you need to use it very sparingly and only discuss critically important matters. Additionally, supervisors usually have a large number of students that they’re committed to, so turnaround times can be lengthy, and you can’t be sure you’ll get their help exactly when you need it. Lastly, supervisors sometimes only provide support by email, so getting valuable facetime with them is not possible.

Contrasted to this, Grad Coach support is unlimited. You’re welcome to engage with us as much (or as little) as you like, and there is no restriction on what you can discuss with us (there’s no such thing as a stupid question!). Additionally, our online booking system allows you to book engagement time in advance so that we’re here when you need us. Lastly, we provide 1-on-1 live interaction sessions, phone support, email support and document review-based support, so you can engage with us whichever way works best for you.

2: Plain-language, actionable advice

Very often, students find that, at times, it feels like their supervisor is speaking another language. This is understandable as supervisors are typically seasoned academics and use the research jargon day in and day out – but this makes it really difficult for students to understand supervisor feedback. Another issue that students often find is that even when they do understand their supervisor, they’re not quite sure what steps to take next – in other words, the supervisor’s feedback is not actionable and does not provide clear next steps.

Contrasted to this, Grad Coach lives by the slogan of “plain-language, actionable feedback and advice”. While our coaches are skilled researchers and academics, we aim to always speak plain-language, easy to understand English, so that you “get it” first time around. We aim to bring academia down to earth and make complex research theory easily digestible using basic language and rich examples. Additionally, we always aim to provide clearly actionable advice, so that you know exactly what you need to do next and how to do it.

3: Hands-off time-saving services – not just advice

Your supervisor’s role is to provide high-level guidance and feedback – and that’s where it ends. They cannot provide you with any other services such as transcription, data analysis, editing or proofreading. Sure, they might correct some typos here and there, but their role is to advise – all the “doing” sits on your plate.

Contrasted to this, Grad Coach provides a full suite of services to help you optimise your research process, all in one place. While 1-on-1 coaching is at the heart of it all, we also provide a host of time-saving services such as interview transcription, translation, qualitative coding, statistical analysis, editing and proofreading. These services allow you to minimise the low-value, time-intensive tasks in your research process so that you can focus on analysis and writing, which is where the marks are.

4: A 100% safe space

Typically, your supervisor will also be involved in your marking – sometimes they will be the first marker, and sometimes even the only marker. Therefore, there’s a student-marker dynamic that exists in the relationship, and you need to make sure that you’re always putting your best foot forward when engaging with them. Ask the “wrong” question and it might count against you if your supervisor gets the wrong impression.

Contrasted to this, Grad Coach is your partner. We’re here to help you, and there’s no risk involved in asking us anything – the more you ask, the better. It’s a safe space. Not only is there no such thing as a “stupid question”, but there’s also 100% student-coach confidentiality, so you never need to worry about the risk of saying something wrong.

5: Diverse research skills expertise

Typically, your supervisor is allocated to you (or you chose them – depends on your degree) on the basis of subject matter expertise, not research skills expertise. In other words, if you’re researching organisational trust, for example, your supervisor would usually have a decent understanding of your research area. However, they may not have a strong understanding of the methodology you will use in your research (for example, a specific statistical analysis technique), which can cause issues for you down the line if other examiners are involved.

Contrasted to this, Grad Coach focuses on research skills expertise, not subject matter expertise. Within the Grad Coach team, we have coaches with a variety of methodological specialisms, which we can draw on to ensure that your methodology, analysis and findings are on point. When you work with Grad Coach, you’ll generally work with one dedicated coach, but you’ll have access to the diverse expertise of the full team.

Wrapping up

And there you have it – the 5 key differences between your supervisor or advisor and Grad Coach. Naturally, there are other subtle differences as well, but these are the key differences that you need to know about.

Have a question about Grad Coach? No problem – simply leave a comment below or, if you’d like to chat with a coach, book an initial consultation here.

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