The doctoral research terrain is changing, as new-styles, for example professional doctorates, are being developed (Park, C., 2005. New variant PhDL the changing nature of the doctorate in the UK. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 27(2), 189–207). There is a scarcity of literature aimed at supervisors (Gatfield, T., 2005, An investigation into PhD supervisory management styles: development of a dynamic conceptual model and its managerial implications. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management 27(3), 311–325) and this is particularly so in relation to professional doctorates. In this position paper we argue that the supervisory approach required for a professional doctorate student is different than that required for a PhD. Professional doctorate students, like PhD students, are required to make an explicit contribution to knowledge. Their emphasis, however, needs to be in producing knowledge that is theoretically sound, original, and of relevance to their practice area. This is of increasing importance within healthcare with the growing emphasis on patient driven translational research. As such, the students and their supervisors face unique challenges of balancing academic requirements with praxis. We suggest this requires specific tools to make explicit the dialogical relationship between a particular project and the cultural, social, educational and political aspects of its environment. We expose the potential of soft systems methodology as a means to highlight the emergent aspects of a doctoral practice development project, their respective and evolving supervisory interactions. This focus of this paper is therefore not about guiding supervision in a managerial sense, but rather at offering methodological suggestions that could underpin applied research at doctoral level.