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I graduated under the supervision of two professors, one of whom acted as main supervisor. To indicate this, I wrote the following sentence:

"I graduated under the supervision of Prof. A and the cosupervision of Prof. B."

Does the sentence correctly indicate that Prof. B was not the main supervisor? Or else "cosupervisor" simply means "to supervise jointly", so without any reference to the degree of supervision offered? After all, if I say that I coauthored a paper with somebody else, I am not giving any information as to whether or not I was the first author, right?

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    I’d say “cosupervision of Prof A and Prof B” if there was little difference between the two. To me, the way you said it does indicate that Prof A is the main supervisor.
    – Peter K.
    Dec 15, 2021 at 11:36
  • Your focus is to leverage the reputation of the co-supervisor, if he/she has any. Dec 15, 2021 at 22:36
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    It's true that "cosupervisors" could mean the two supervisors have an equal role. But if you explicitly call one a "supervisor" and the other a "cosupervisor", it does sound like they have unequal roles. Think about a pilot and a copilot in a plane.
    – Stef
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:38

3 Answers 3

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I think this is clear in context. If you just said "I was cosupervised by Professor B", all that would necessarily imply is that Professor B was not the only supervisor.

However, since you mention "supervision of Professor A" as well as "cosupervision of Professor B", that makes it clear that they have different status (and Professor A was the main supervisor).

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There are two different aspects to your questions:

  • You probably have one (or multiple) "formal" supervisor(s) from the perspective of your University (on paper),
  • One (or multiple) person is mentoring you (in practice).

In my case, one of my advisor did not have their "habilitation" (which is required to mentor PhD student in France, it's the equivalent of being a graduate member in the US), so I was on paper mentored by a different advisor that played a more modest role in my training.

But, even if one advisor in practice mentored me more than the other, the manuscript indicated their roles on paper.

So, I believe:

  • In every official document, use the "on paper" description (if they have equal roles, don't distinguish between them, if they have different roles, report them as indicated, even if this is not the reflect of the situation in practice).
  • In informal communication, your sentence is just fine.
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    "In every official document, use the "on paper" description (if they have equal roles, don't distinguish between them)," The opposite is also possible: that on paper, they have unequal roles, with one supervisor being the main supervisor (perhaps because they have an HDR and the cosupervisor doesn't have an HDR) but in practice, they have equal roles, or even reversed roles (with the cosupervisor being more closely involved than the supervisor).
    – Stef
    Dec 16, 2021 at 11:36
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I think the distinction is clear for most of the world. There are people who will read your sentence as:

  • "one main and one co-supervisor, a smaller one" (the majority I guess)
  • "two supervisors at the same level" when "co-supervising" has a special meaning. This is the case for instance in France where "cotutelle" (co-supervision) has a legal meaning (link in French)

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