In the academic world it is a tradition to have a guide to supervise the students’
research. According to Toncich (n.d.), the main role of a research supervisor consists
of guiding and mentoring students in such a way that they can learn about the
systematic processes of discovery... and this role has not changed over the years;
however, Toncich claims that there are others that have, for example, the methods
and techniques that supervisors use to fulfill this process.
“Effective supervision of research students is acknowledged to be a crucial factor in
the latter’s successful completion of the Ph.D.” (Fisher & Larson, 2000). Thus, the
role that a supervisor plays is very important so that a student can finish his/her
In the article Imperial College London (2012), it is claimed that the role of the
supervisors and their relationships with their students are of critical importance. So,
it is important that a supervisor builds a good work environment with his students
but it is not always possible as nowadays, professors have more responsibilities such
as doing research, tutoring, giving classes, and attending meetings which have been
compulsory since 10 years ago to be a faculty member at the Universidad de
As we can see in the background, most studies about research
supervision have been carried out in foreign countries but only in
graduate studies while in Mexico there have been few undergraduates’
research supervision studies.
As the undergraduates’ research supervision studies that have been
carried out in Mexico are focused on the methodology that teachers
use to supervise research projects and on the students’ perspective and
with quantitative approach, we want to search about what are the
supervisors’ characteristics and perceptions involved in the process of
supervising undergraduates’ research at the Universidad de Quintana
Roo using a qualitative-descriptive approach.
To study the faculty s perceptions regarding the research project
supervision of undergraduates and the factors that may be affecting
To analyze teachers perceptions and experiences when supervising
To examine the personal and institutional factors that may affect the
research supervision according to the teachers perceptions and
To determine supervisors self-efficacy during the process of
1.4 Research questions
RQ1. How do teachers develop the process of supervising
RQ2. What are the perceptions that teachers have regarding
supervision and what are some experiences they have been through?
RQ3. What are the personal and institutional factors that may be
affecting undergraduates’ research supervision?
RQ4. What are the characteristics that a supervisor needs to have to
be considered efficient?
RQ5. How does the faculty perceive their self-efficacy to supervise
This research questions emerge from our empirical knowledge and
our curiosity to know more about the difficulties that professors face
when supervising undergraduates’ research projects at the
Universidad de Quintana Roo. In addition, as we are about to
graduate we wanted to know how professors develop the process of
research project supervision.
1.5 Significance/relevance of the study.
This study will be useful for those teachers wanting to be research
supervisors because they will get a general idea of what being a
research supervisor implies. Besides that, supervisors will become
aware of the way they execute the research supervision process.
Moreover, it will help the Universidad de Quintana Roo to identify
the main aspects of the supervisors that need to be improved in order
for the institution to have better prepared supervisors. Also, it will
make the institution revise its educational policies because they will
realize that professors have many responsibilities to cope with
Not only will the Universidad de Quintana Roo be benefited with this
research but also other institutions because with this work, they will
identify if supervisors have problems when helping the students with
their research. Finally, the students will be benefited because they
will know the professors’ perceptions about the research supervision
process; therefore, they will have the opportunity to think of the kind
of supervisor they want to have.
2.1 Review of the relevant literature
Many studies about research supervision have been carried out in graduate
research studies but they have been done in foreign countries such as the United
Kingdom and the United States; however, in these countries there are few studies
about undergraduates’ research supervision.
The only article about undergraduates’ research supervision that we found that
was conducted in a foreign country is the one that was carried out by Hammick
& Acker in 1998 but it does not say the place where it was conducted in order to
preserve the participants’ confidentiality.
Hammick & Acker (2008) undertook a qualitative research project about the way
supervisors of undergraduate research discuss their style of supervision and they
had as variable the gender of the supervisors. They used unstructured and taped
interviews to collect data. The outcome of this research was that although there
were commonalties in the concerns of all the supervisors, there was also a
tendency for women to adopt characteristically different ways of talking about
the supervisory process and their role in it. And the conclusion that they reach
was that there is a tendency for men supervisors to talk in more confident and
task-oriented ways about their practice of supervision, whereas women
emphasize personal relations and admit to doubts about their abilities to
One of the projects that we found about undergraduates’ research
projects in Mexico is the one that will be described below.
Tapia, Rivera & Piantzi (2013) conducted a quantitative research
study about the beliefs that the students have regarding the writing
and undergraduate research supervision in the state of Puebla. The
outcomes that were found in this research project were that students
had problems when deciding on a topic, how to write the research
project and the lack of time to do it. Besides that, students agreed
that supervisors should give them feedback to improve their
research, be patient and kind towards them when working on the
projects. And the conclusion was that writing a research project is
very challenging and that the process becomes easier choose a topic
that they like. In addition, students should choose a good supervisor
to help them through this long process.
2.2 Conceptual framework
Supervisors’ motivation is an important factor to carry out a good
supervision process because if the supervisor feels motivated, he
will transmit that feeling to his students and both student and
supervisor will have the willingness to keep working in the project.
In addition, teachers should know their capabilities when guiding
students with their research project. Bandura (1994) claimed that
People's beliefs about their capabilities to produce effects is known
as Perceived Self-Efficacy and this is very important for a
supervisor in order for him to know if he has enough knowledge
about the topic that he is going to supervise.
Besides that, perception is another factor that is involved in the way
professors supervise research projects because all professors have
different points of view about how to carry out research projects
supervision. “Perception can be defined as a process by which
individuals select, organize and interpret their sensory impressions,
so as to give meaning to their environment.”(www.icmrindia.org)
In order to carry out this project, a procedure was followed. The
first step was to define the research design of this project which is
qualitative-descriptive. This will be a qualitative-descriptive
research because Seliger (1989) claims that “both qualitative and
descriptive research are concerned with providing descriptions of
phenomena that occur naturally, without the intervention of an
experiment or an artificial contrived treatment.” Besides that, the
research context is an important point.
The place where this research project will be conducted is at the
Universidad de Quintana Roo which is a public university that
offers the English Language Major. In addition, this institution has a
department of language and education where the English professors
are in charge of the English Language Major. As the English
professors of this department also supervise research projects and as
they have the experience supervising EFL research projects they
will be the ones who will help us to do this research. Therefore, in
this university the participants will be found.
The participants of this research project will be the English
professors of the Department of Language and Education who have
a minimum of two years of experience supervising undergraduate’s
research projects at the Universidad de Quintana Roo.
3.2. Instruments or materials
In qualitative research data are often collected by means of a
number of procedures used simultaneously, with one piece of data
leading to the next (Seliger, 1989). Furthermore, Seliger (1989)
suggests that for this type of research interviewing informants, and
compiling biodata about them can be used to collect data. Therefore,
to collect qualitative data we are going to interview the participants.
Moreover, in 1989 Seliger remarked that structured interviews and
semi-structured questionnaires can be used for descriptive research.
Thus, we are going to apply questionnaires in order to collect
Having decided on the instruments that we are going to use to collect data, we are
going to follow the next procedure.
First, we are going to elaborate a questionnaire that will include questions about the
English professors’ experience supervising undergraduates’ research projects, selfefficacy, perceptions when supervising and the factors that may affect
undergraduate’s research supervision. The questionnaire will be applied to the 19
members of the Department of Language and Education. Once the participants have
answered the questionnaire, the results will be analysed. As this will be a case study,
from the 19 members of the Department we will choose only five professors taking
into account the information that was obtained from the questionnaires that were
applied previously. The five professors that will be chosen are going to be
interviewed to get more specific information about them and all the interviews will
be recorded so that they can be analysed later.
To choose the five participants we will rely on the years of experience they have
supervising undergraduates’ research projects. But in order to get a balance between
the participants that will be interviewed, we will choose the two men and three
women with more experience in supervision.
Once the interviews have been done, we are going to transcribe them in order to
analyse them very carefully and interpret what the interviewees wanted to express.
3.4. Data analysis
According to Seliger (1989) in qualitative research the data are usually in
the form of words in oral or written modes. For that reason, the
transcription of the interviews will be done.
The software that will be used to analyse the data collected of the
interviews is Atlas.ti which is a program that is mostly used to analyse
qualitative data. This software is very useful to analyse graphics, texts,
audio and video. In this case, we are going to use Atlas.ti software to
analyse the transcriptions of the interviews.
Data obtained from descriptive research are generally analysed with the aid
of descriptive statistics (Seliger 1989). Therefore, the questionnaires will
be analysed with the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences)
software in order to get specific information from them.
Once we get the results from the analysis of the questionnaires and
interviews we will have the tools to answer the research questions stated in
this research project and to reach a conclusion.
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.),
Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York:
Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of
mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998).
Case Studies and Management Resources. Retrieved from
Hammick, M., & Acker, S. (1998) Undergraduate research
supervision: a gender analysis. Studies in higher education. Vol. 23,
Imperial Collegue London. (2012). Retrieved from
Seliger H.W., and Shohamy, E. 1989, Ch. 6, Research design: qualitative and
descriptive research, pp. 116
Tapia, R., Rivera, E., & Piantzi, L. (2013). Estudio exploratorio de creencias
acerca de la redacción y supervisión de tesis. Revista Iberoamericana para
la Investigación y el Desarrollo Educativo ISSN 2007 – 2619.
Toncich, D. J. (n.d.) - Key Factors in Postgraduate Research - A Guide for
Students Chapter 4 - Research Supervision Issues.
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