I am a Master's student. I have one problem. I have regular meetings with my research supervisor, but during the discussions he takes me in the wrong direction. This often leads to him coming to the wrong conclusions about my work.

For example, he will read half of a statement and try to conclude something (wrong) from that half statement. I try to correct him but he doesn't listen. So far I have not seen any benefits for my research. How can I deal with this situtation? I know it is research and some times we need to go in the wrong direction.

  • 3
    Typical professor behaviour, attention span of a four-year-old, and once they think they've got it, they start talking. ;-) Write differently, so it is always clear the statement isn't finished. Don't be afraid to write long sentences. People tell you to make sentences short not because that's better understandable, but because it makes them feel, in comparison, smarter.
    – Karl
    Commented Apr 2, 2018 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


This is a partial strategy, but I realized it's more an answer than a comment. I'm sure others will have very useful strategies for this all-too-common problem.

You could phrase it as "yes, and..." rather than correcting. "Yes, that's an interesting angle: I thought about that too and then I realized X. So then I [details getting back on track.]" Not saying it'll work, but this may be a way to bring him back with you into the active part of the problem-solving space.

Also, if you can have a one page overview/agenda that previews the path you've taken, that might be easier to get him to follow along with and prevent misconceptions. Also, perhaps have two or three clear questions written at the bottom of the one-page agenda, so he gets a chance to weigh in on something new, and you get a chance to get his clear feedback on something you need to know. (Then email an update with a revised agenda attached, with "Thanks for talking about this! I've added my notes about what we talked about today, for reference.")


I will be blunt:

  1. Take control and push the discussion where you want. The collaborative approach is not going to work. Redirect the guy hard. Don't worry about it. Just do it. Wasting time is a crime and this guy is wasting it. And you are wasting his if you are not doing a little hammer and tongs and just letting him blather. (Wo)Man up.

  2. If you still don't get anything useful from the guy, you may just need need to do your own Ph.D. and not bother with meetings. Or ignore them if required. I did my whole Ph.D. on my own. My instructor had very little contribution. He was busy editing journals and getting grants. I drove my ship.

  3. The only bad spot is if he stops you from doing what you want to do. But realize you have a lot of passive aggressive power. You are the one in lab. Do the experiment, you want to do. Don't worry about what the old man said. Don't debate it. Just do what you want.

  4. In the back of your mind, listen to what he says and in the 10% of the time there is something useful, use it. Remember my prof wanting something (showing molecules versus atoms for a spectroscopy experiment) in a written research statement requirement of Ph.D. (not the thesis, but a written project required in this uni). I had a mega cool topic, but kind of hard to believe, very innovative. So I took him up and found a bit of what he wanted and it totally took care of some objections and made the thing look more like a natural extension than a wacky idea. That said, there were a lot of times he wanted time spent on experiments that were a waste or not to do stuff that I wanted to do. And when I listened to him it was a waste (or I missed a Science paper). And when I did what I wanted, it worked better. Other students were much more deferential to him and it was not to their benefit.

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