I've started writing my dissertation after a bit of a disaster with my field research. I'm getting the type of degree where we collect our data and analyze only after, not during collection.

My advisor has me on a rigorous schedule which I agreed to because I knew she wouldn't accept anything else. I had my first round of edits from her and then the second and the response to the two was night and day. First she said I did a great job and then she said my chapter was incomplete. I explained to her (twice) that I wanted to wait to write one of the sections until later and she told me that she is concerned that my paper was late.

I showed her it was not late, and she said, no, she didn't actually mean late, she meant incomplete because of the section I had missed and because I hadn't written 2-3 paragraphs to cap off the end of my sections (which I consider does not render the chapter "incomplete" because I didn't even know I needed them and that's why students send their chapters to their advisors).

This is not the first time this has happened where she says one thing at one point and then another the next. She's clearly a mircomanager, but I don't know how to deal with somebody who keeps changing their mind. For financial reasons, I can no longer live near my university and all of our communications are over email. I don't have an issue being assertive about my project, but she doesn't seem to respond to that like a lot of recommendations suggest.

I have about a year to go at this point. What do I do?

  • 2
    Mention of "bipolar" is not good here... Maybe "self-inconsistent"? Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 23:20
  • Have you considered changing supervisor? Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 23:55

1 Answer 1


When we work on a big project that requires precise thinking and language, it's easy to get into a mindset of wanting the same kind of precision from the people around us.

But sometimes people with sloppy self-expression do have a surprising amount of helpful feedback to offer.

The less defensive you can get the better. Try to let go of peeves about contradictions and inconsistencies, and try to leverage her comments so as to keep progressing and improving your results and your writing.

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