I did an honours degree last year (4 year undergrad study with a research thesis). My supervisor shafted me towards the end of that year when I was coming up to submit my thesis by being absent with his own life issues and barely communicative, and gave me back drafts literally days before it was due. End result was I fell barely short of the requirements to get a PhD scholarship. So I discussed with my supervisor and he said I could write a paper with his assistance about my work, to bolster a future PhD application.

So we agreed on a date to catch up, the time came and I sent him an email. He has not responded at all, it's been 10 days at this point. Normally he would reply back quickly. I'm getting the strong feeling he's got yet another excuse, but I really need to do this for my professional development/future PhD application. What should I do next? Would it be possible to write the paper myself without assistance (I have all the data).

  • Is your undergrad thesis supervisor currently working with you in an official supervisory role right now? (If not, then your paper is probably not a priority to your former supervisor.) Are you looking to continue your PhD studies at the same institution? (Alternatively, do you plan on continuing to work with your former undergrad advisor in an official capacity in the future?)
    – Mad Jack
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 18:34

3 Answers 3


There are many reasons why people can miss an email; a likely possibility for busy people is that your email simply got buried under many others. So, don't assume he's trying to ignore you, and you should first bug him again (politely) about that.

It is also a good idea to start writing the paper on your own: your supervisor will be much more willing to help you improve a first outline or even a draft than to start from a blank page.


Would it be possible to write the paper myself without assistance (I have all the data).

If you are going to submit this to a journal without the person knowing or being a co-author, they are going to be displeased, and for good reason!

However, it this is just a fix-up of your "project write-up" that you submit along with your CV, then from an admissions point of view I would rather be perusing a good version that showcases your capabilities, than the rushed version that, in the story as related by you, was less good than it could have been due to circumstances beyond your control.


The typical approach of a well-seasoned academic when getting a typical (esp. pre-PhD) student paper is: keep the results and figures, rewrite it all. A typical (there are some geniuses out there) BSc student is not able to write a competitive and concise research paper text. I mean-- yes, they can. But simply not good enough and in most cases too long. It would probably need to be edited so heavily that almost any merit is lost.

To me, personally, it's much easier to write the paper from scratch than to rewrite someone's text.

Notice that this answer does not weight in the previous email "absence" behaviour of your would-be-supervisor in any way.

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