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Supervision of doctoral theses.

How to prevent and cope with problems and incidents?

PhD-PANIC: Guide for the Analysis of Critical Incidents during the Doctorate

The Pauta PhD-PANIC has been designed to help both supervisors and PhD students to reflect on the significant events, problems and incidents that they encounter during the trajectory in order to prevent their emergence and resolve them strategically.


It is structured in four sections:

1. Description of the incident's history

2. Analysis of the incident

3. Definition of coping and prevention strategies

4. Implementation of strategies and follow-up.

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The use of the guideline will allow you to identify the causes, conceptions, dilemmas and tensions associated with the incident and turn it into an opportunity for learning and development of the researcher identity. Below you will find two versions of the PhD-PANIC for download and an example of use:

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The perception of doctoral candidates

The REDES_id web application collects the perceptions of doctoral students from the main Catalan universities in relation to:

  • Problems and difficulties of the doctoral trajectory

  • Achievements and objectives achieved

  • Coping strategies

  • Doctoral support network

  • Level of satisfaction


The platform allows you to apply filters to the results in order to consult the answers of a specific community (ie, university, discipline and/or doctorate program).


The perception of supervisors



Incident 1: Co-supervision

The guide and proposals offered by the two thesis supervisors are contradictory. The doctoral student leaves the meeting without knowing how to advance in her thesis.

Incident 4: Peripheral participation

A doctoral student tries to participate in the meeting of the research team and she is ignored by the senior researchers.

Incident 2: Supervisor without time

A student meets with her supervisor to review some doubts. The supervisor not only has not done the job but quickly finalizes the meeting because he has no time.

Incident 5: Refusal of the article

A doctoral student does not know how to take the negative feedback she has received from a journal. The supervisor tries to relativize the comments of the reviewers in order to encourage her.

Incident 3: The first congress

It is the first congress of a doctoral student she has a rough time when she receives criticism from two senior researchers about her work.

Incident 6: "This thesis is not good enough"

A doctoral student feels insecure about the quality of her research. The supervisor tries to cheer her up without much success.

Bibliographical references and web recources

Castelló, M., Pardo, M., Sala-Bubaré, A., & Suñe-Soler, N. (2017). Why do students consider dropping out of doctoral degrees? Institutional and personal factors. Higher Education, 74(6).

McAlpine, L., & Amundsen, C. (2015). Early career researcher challenges: substantive and methods-based insights. Studies in Continuing Education, 37(1), 1–17.

McAlpine, L., Jazvac-Martek, M., & Hopwood, N. (2010). Doctoral student experience in Education: Activities and difficulties influencing identity development. International Journal for Researcher Development, 97–110. Retrieved from

McAlpine, L., Paulson, J., Gonsalves, A., & Jazvac-Martek, M. (2012). “Untold” doctoral stories: can we move beyond cultural narratives of neglect? Higher Education Research & Development, 31(4), 511–523.

Monereo, C. (Coord.) (2017). Página web CRITIC-EDU: Compartiendo Incidentes Críticos en Educación 

Pyhältö, K., Toom, A., Stubb, J., & Lonka, K. (2012). Challenges of Becoming a Scholar: A Study of Doctoral Students’ Problems and Well-Being. ISRN Education, 2012, 1–12.

"problems that the doctoral students emphasised can be considered primarily as pedagogical in nature rather than mainly financial or political. This suggests that the solution to the problems may also be found in developing the educational practices of doctoral education. Moreover, the results indicate that forms of instruction should be developed which would both promote meaningful learning and well-being among PhD students"

Pyhältö et al. (2012, p.6)​

Access the CRITIC-EDU website

In this website, you will find numerous video-cases and stories about critical incidents in the education.

There is a specific section for the training of researchers.

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