Richard Baskerville and Nancy Russo have shown how particular supervisor-student relationships can be seen as one of a number of metaphors, for example, a journey, a marriage, apprenticeship and servitude. In this paper we develop this idea further by suggesting problems associated with situations where students and supervisors might be proceeding on the basis of different metaphors, which we refer to as ‘mixed metaphors’. We use ‘playlets’ to illustrate these situations. These and the discussions that follow are devised from individual interviews with supervisors and research students, a focus group consisting of research students, and our own experiences as research students and supervisors. Sug gestions are provided as to how the student and supervisor might avoid relationships where conflicting mixed metaphors are apparent that cause problems in the relationship and potentially hinder the progress of the student.