I am currently a math Ph.D. student, and I meet my advisor every two weeks for an hour.

I have been here for over a year. I spent the first six months studying the basics of the topic, though I still have no clear vision of what my advisor wants me to do.

During our meetings, I always try to discuss my research ideas, propose topics and show my results. However, he seems to agree with everything I say, and at the end, I don't think I am really having any feedback from him. I don't know what topic he wants me to do research in.


  1. Is it normal for math Ph.D. students to not receive feedback when interacting with their advisor?

  2. What can I do to get more feedback?

  • 1
    Have you tried specifically asking something like "Do you have any opinion on which direction would be best for my thesis project?" Maybe your advisor thinks you're happy picking your on problems (which you'll have to do one day anyway) and thinks you're doing a good job of it so far. But if you're unhappy with that and want more specific guidance, then ask for that. – Noah Snyder Feb 5 '18 at 16:39
  • @NoahSnyder Thanks for the comment. I have tried this, unsuccessfully. He has no idea. Everything stays in the air at the end. I think it is impossible for a person to come up with a research project in a meeting. I just need some topic within the area. – jhndoe Feb 5 '18 at 17:23
  • 3
    To some extent, the direction of your project should be your own. But if you don't have a clear direction already, you should just ask your advisor for some direction. That said, I will say that a math PhD these days is often not as...coherent as you might expect. A typical situation is to do something like three loosely related problems, submit each for publication, get two accepted, and then bolt them together into a thesis at the end. – Ian Feb 5 '18 at 17:30
  • It's also quite common to try a lot of different projects and see what is promising before spending more time on one project. It's often impossible to tell if a project is promising before devoting some work to it. I don't work by deciding to work on Topic A and then keeping at it until I get something. I work by working on Topics A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and H more or less simultaneously, and 7 of those 8 end up in the wastebasket after varying amounts of work, while the 8th turns into something that can be published/be a dissertation. – Alexander Woo Feb 6 '18 at 1:26
  • Most successful (pure) math dissertations have the core idea done in a week. The problem is that you spend months (or if you're unlucky, years) on various projects before getting that week. – Alexander Woo Feb 6 '18 at 1:28