Finding a supervisor and data collection



I'm working on my Phd project proposal and have few questions to ask.

To what extent is data collection directed/controlled by the Phd supervisor and the university? Or is it up to the Phd student to arrange access to data they will need for their research?

My local university doesn't seem to have the right potential supervisor (the available supervisors are researching different topics and I don't know if they would accommodate my proposal). I will be looking elsewhere for a suitable supervisor but I'm not sure how data collection would work. My research proposal will require clinical data from patients with acquired brain damage - so I will need access to a hospital or some sort of a research centre. My understanding was that the local university probably has established relationship with the local hospital allowing some kind of access to data for Phd students.
But what would happen if I found a supervisor elsewhere? How would the data collection work? Would I still be able to collect data locally (and if so, would I need to approach the hospital/research centre, or is it done via the academic channels), or would I need to collect data from the setting appointed by the supervisor?

This is possibly a stupid question so I do apologize but I'm trying to get my head around the whole application process atm.


Hi Zk433,

Any research where data is being collected from NHS patients requires approval from NHS Research Ethics Committee and Research and Development within the NHS. It is up to the researcher to submit the necessary applications using the Integrated Research Application System (IRAS). Supervisors provide support with the process and in my experience their knowledge of the system is variable as it changes frequently. You can apply to collect data from a number of different clinical sites with one University acting as sponsor for the research. I would think that the university that your supervision is being provided from would undertake the sponsorship role.
When working up your research proposal a key element is identifying where you are most likely to be able to gather your data and how you can ethically go about this. It is always good to try and establish informal links with potential research sites as these links can really help you when it comes to accessing and gathering the data. Hope this helps.


Thank you, K.

so if it would be my responsibility to arrange the access to the data, it shouldn't matter if my supervisor (and the University) is located on the other side of UK with me collecting data where I'm located, right?

I was just worried that if I start establishing some informal links with the potential research sites now, but don't find any suitable supervisors at my local Uni and have to find one elsewhere, I don't want the potential supervisor telling me to collect the data at their local research site instead.

By the way, is there some sort of timeline of how the research process progresses? Once a student is accepted onto Phd, what happens next?

Thank you.


Bear in mind it increases the feeling of isolation if your supervisors and potential colleagues are hundreds of miles away from you. It does make things a bit easier if you have a research group you can turn to when you need support.

The first thing a new PhD student usually does is read the background literature and write some sort of review to identify the gaps in the research. This can take one month to a year before any data is collected depending upon the subject area and topic.


I'm hoping to get a superviser at my local Uni, there is one who is researching my area of interested, but she is not identified as 'one of the potential supervisors' on the University website. I will contact her directly in few weeks, after I have done more research, but I also wanted to be prepared for the possibility of having to find someone else.

I will be working on the lit. review now as a part of my project proposal. I have some time, I'm planning to register for Mphil/Phd in Autumn 2014/Spring 2015. What I meant was, is there a place where I could read about all the necessary procedures, required approvals and applications for a Phd student dealing with clinical data (research areas psychology, cognitive and clinical neuroscience)? I don't know anyone who is doing this kind of research, I've been searching online like crazy, finding snippets of information here and there. I am going to go to the University in March for an Postgrad Open Day, but I want to be prepared, I want to know what to expect before I meet the potential supervisors.

Thank you.


Ok well usually a PhD student should have two supervisors so maybe the person you want is new or inexperienced, but works in your area, and the other can be experienced but in a different field. This would be a good set of supervisors, potentially.

I don't know about the clinical data side of things as I'm doing a molecular biology PhD but there's lots of people on here that do, so I'm sure someone else will let you have information that they know.

You don't need to worry too much about being prepared. They should provide all this information to you - and you can bet there will still be something that throws you off completely anyway!


Hi, I am undertaking a Clinical Doctorate so it is a bit different but the process overall will be similar. Don't worry about not knowing or understanding it at this stage- that is all part of the journey ! It is great that you are thinking about it.
From a clinical perspective the most important aspect is considering the ethical implications of your proposed study and what it will potentially contribute to the existing body of knowledge. The process of doing your literature review and writing your research proposal forms the basis of the detailed research application system (IRAS). Completing the IRAS form is very confusing to begin with but the process of writing and re writing drafts of it really helps you to become clearer about what exactly you are going to do and how you are going to do it in practice. Once I was at the stage of moving from the research proposal to completing the form I progressed by sending regular drafts to both supervisors for comments and review.So that by the time I was seeking ethical approval I had completed many drafts.This was definitely time well spent when it came to gaining ethical approval for the study. When thinking about your data collection it is important to consider what is practical and feasible so I would say being close to your research sites is a definite advantage.Peer support is invaluable also. Hope this helps even a wee bit.
Good Luck


Thank you both.

I'm feeling a bit better about the process - I've decided it will be better to just focus on the project proposal and identifying any gaps in existing research. I will note all my questions down and ask the potential supervisors when I see them in March.

If there is anyone doing a Phd in Neuroscience (or anything related to acquired brain injury), I would be very happy to have a chat with them.

All the best in year 2014!