Psykologisk Institut

Sarah van Mastrigt




This document is intended to give you an idea about the guidance that I am able to offer and how I generally approach my task as a supervisor. All supervisors and students are unique and it is therefore important that you understand my view of the supervision process and that we agree on what we might expect from each other before deciding to work together.


My Philosophy

My starting point as a supervisor is the belief that you hold primary responsibility for driving the thesis project and that the final product is yours, not mine. In addition to generating new content-specific knowledge on your thesis topic, I expect that you will take an active role in developing transferrable skills in relation to:

-        Critical analysis of a complex topic

-        Effective academic writing

-        Working independently and in groups to prepare and execute a project within a set timeframe

I view my role as supportive, with the primary aim of helping you to develop the above skills. I can make suggestions about how you may enhance the quality, content, and form of your work, but my starting point is that you are ultimately responsible for the process as well and the final product. I also believe that your fellow students can be a great resource and that you can learn a lot from each other. At least some of your supervision time will therefore occur in groups with other thesis students working on their projects at the same time.


What Kind of Supervisor am I?

My expertise lies in the fields of criminology and the social psychology of crime and punishment.  I am willing to offer guidance on both empirical and theoretical topics related to these fields. Unless the topic falls very precisely within my particular areas of knowledge, my ability to provide content-specific guidance will be limited. I therefore assume that you will become the expert in your specific topic (e.g., based on your reading of the literature, etc), while I will provide process-based supervision at a more general level. You can, for example, expect guidance in relation to problem formulation, argument construction, and thesis structure. If you have chosen to write your thesis in English, I am also willing to provide some guidance in relation to writing style, flow, etc. If you are writing in Danish, I expect that you will seek guidance on your writing style from friends and/or colleagues.   

I try to tailor my supervision to the individual students’ learning style and needs. This means that we may focus on the structure, content, or writing process to a greater or lesser extent based on an assessment of your specific needs. As part of the process, I will encourage you to reflect on where your strengths and weaknesses lie. In most cases, the structure of the thesis write-up will be a central topic of discussion throughout the supervision process.


Before we Start

Before we start, I expect that you:

-        Have familiarized yourself with the formal requirements of your thesis as outlined on the psychology department homepage. This applies to ensuring that you know about the forms that need to be submitted, word limits, submission procedures, etc. I also expect you to have familiarized yourself with the criteria for evaluation of the thesis.


-        Do some initial brainstorming regarding topics you might like to write about. Although it is natural that the details of your problem formulation may change during the project, I will ask you to reflect on several key questions before our first meeting, by completing a form I will send to you in advance.


Your Topic

The primary responsibility for choosing a topic is in your hands. My role is to advise you on which theories, literature, and methods might be best suited to examining the topic of interest that you have identified. Often, my role also involves helping you to refine and limit your topic to ensure that you can realistically complete your thesis within the time frame and word-limits allowed.  I will not ‘give’ you a topic. If I feel that you need to further clarify your topic before we meet, I will encourage you to take a couple of weeks to explore the literature and formulate a more specific proposal before we move forward.


The First Meeting

The topic of our first meeting will focus on outlining the speciale process and a discussion of any written materials you have sent to me beforehand. The expected outcomes of our first meeting will be:

-        An agreement regarding mutual expectations for supervision and how we will proceed with the supervision process (e.g., decision as to whether we will meet according to your request or on a regular schedule, format for group supervisions, etc). The agreements that we make at the first session are meant to be general guidelines. If you run into problems, we can always revise our agreement.


-        A plan and timeline for finalizing your topic choice.


-        A decision about when our next meeting will take place.


-        A short supervision summary sent to me by email within 1 week of our meeting, outlining the main topics we discussed at the meeting and goals to meet for the next meeting. You will be responsible for writing similar summaries after each of our meetings. These summaries will provide a roadmap of our progress and will ensure that we are on the same page after each meeting.


Subsequent Meetings

Unless we have agreed otherwise, I expect that a minimum of 2 working days before each meeting, you will send me an outline of what you would like to discuss and/or any text that you would like me to read and that this will be uploaded to dropbox. I am willing to thoroughly read a maximum of 7 pages at every meeting. Although the text you send need not be a final draft, it should be understandable enough for me to provide useful comments. Whenever you send text to read, you should also tell me what you would like me to comment on specifically (e.g., theoretical interpretation, flow of writing, quality of arguments, etc). Some students also find it useful to send a short list of questions that they would like to discuss. Sending me materials/discussion questions in advance of our meetings will enhance what you get out of our sessions, as I will have had an opportunity to prepare. As noted above, after each session, I expect you to send me a short supervision summary by email.

Please note that with respect to emails and other unscheduled correspondence, I will do my best to get back to you within 48 hours, but I will not generally respond to emails on weekends or holidays.



The formal supervision process begins with our first meeting.  Your project must be submitted within the standard timelines determined by the department.  


In total, you are entitled to 15 hours of supervision during this period. This includes my preparation time, e-mails and face-to-face meetings. Typically, once preparation time is accounted for, you can expect that we will have approximately 6-7 meetings during the writing process. Some of these meetings might involve joint supervision, and others will be individual.  As emails are included in the calculation of supervision time, I encourage you to wait to contact me until you have a number of things to discuss, rather than sending many short emails. If you are stuck on something and need immediate guidance, however, don’t hesitate to get in contact.

How Much Will I Read?

Finalizing the written thesis product is a chance for you to demonstrate individual thought and creativity. I will therefore do my best to guide you throughout the writing process, but will not read a final draft of your whole project/thesis before you submit it. Writing a final, full draft of your thesis is a central part of the independent work expected at the graduate-level.

I am, however, willing to be relatively flexible in reading outlines or drafts of individual chapters. At a minimum, I would typically expect to see:


-        A near-finished draft of your introductory chapter stating your problem formulation/hypothesis and the outline of the thesis structure


-        Detailed outlines and/or drafts of theory/analysis chapters


-        Detailed outline and/or draft of your concluding chapter


As a general rule I avoid reading the same material twice, if a particular need arises I might be willing to read drafts more than once. Although I will occasionally comment on your grammar, spelling, referencing, etc, I expect that you will take primary responsibility for proof-reading that you will use your speciale group/other colleagues to help with technical editing. My comments will be more focused on content.



Once you have submitted your thesis, my role as supervisor is changed to that of evaluator. My evaluation will be based on the final thesis product only. You should therefore feel confident in submitting drafts in the course of the writing process without worrying that the content or form of those drafts will negatively impact your final mark.


Contacting Me

You are welcome to come by my office if you have a quick question, but you must respect that I might be unable to see you because I am in the middle of something else when you knock on my door. The easiest way to contact me is by email. If you want to postpone a scheduled meeting because you are still writing or need some extra time to prepare, you must notify me by email within 2 working days before the meeting and be aware that there might be a delay before we can re-schedule. If you want to postpone a meeting because you are having a writing block or have been stuck for an extended period of time on a particular section of your thesis, I might encourage you to come for a short meeting instead, so that we can discuss the problem and work together to help you move forward. 

If you have questions regarding the information outlined above, I look forward to addressing them the first time we meet.


With best wishes,


Office: 512/1350