I am a PhD student. At the beginning of my study, my supervisor told me that they are able to help me with my topic. However, later I found that they cannot even understand what is my topic. They wasting my time for more about one and a half year without any comments or help with my topic. Then, I worked entirely alone with my topic. I have done the first chapter of my study, they asked me to be co-authors with me for nothing but just because they are my supervisors. I refused this. Then, they asked me to add them in the acknowledgment as they are the supervisors of this project. They asked me to write this in every single paper of my Ph.D. papers. They did not help me with anything, they even cannot understand the difference between my objectives. My question, Must I acknowledge them in my papers?

  • Who devised this "project" you are on?
    – Karl
    May 12 '18 at 16:34
  • Do they pay you? If so, you must acknowledge their funding. Did they provide you with any resources at all—a laptop or an office, for example? Then you must acknowledge that support.
    – JeffE
    May 12 '18 at 18:01
  • @JeffE They did not provide me anything. Only an office from the Uni for all the student.
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 19:37
  • @Karl I devised the project.
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 19:40
  • 1
    You shouldn't include a co-author unless they deserve to be included. But what do you gain by excluding them even from the acknowledgements? You're supposed to be there to learn from them, not to do whatever you want and get their degree for it. It's their school and you're the trainee. If this isn't the situation then you're the one who doesn't belong. You need to find another adviser if you're going to finish. May 13 '18 at 9:00

Acknowledging your supervisor means many things, ranging from thanking their funding and fundamental supervision to suggesting that your phD relationship is ok, although this is not necessarily the case.

Non-helpful supervisors are not only those who ignore their duties but also those who do not give the input but keep pushing you back. So, my suggestion is to change your supervisor. Move on to work with more professional people. Doing research alone is hard enough. You don't want any other barriers in your way as your journey will become harder and harder.

  • They even do not give me a sponsor. If I asked them a question they said they do not know or even give me a wrong answer.
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 12:18
  • Let's think in this way, it is good that now you know early. But you should talk to someone of the higher power such as the postgrad office. Once, you inform about them; then, it is best to move on with a better person. This is very serious, especially when it comes to no funding. I believe that if you work hard enough, someone might consider taking you under his/her supervision. Many of them only want a student who can do good publications, even if it is not about their works.
    – FGSn
    May 12 '18 at 15:45
  • By the way, you should talk to the postgraduate office to decide whether you should add them in acknowledgment. This is something to do with the authorship, and having the third party should help.
    – FGSn
    May 12 '18 at 15:57

Giving a mere acknowledgement to supervisors is a pretty low bar, and it would be a pretty extreme reaction to deny this. Even if they did not succeed in assisting you with this paper, presumably they must have made some attempt to assist you in their supervisory role, and they have taken time out of their own schedule to try to assist you as a student. That in itself warrants an acknowledgement and thanks, even if you are of the view that they did not contribute anything of value. It is usual to add someone as a co-author only when they have made a substantial contribution to a paper, but the bar for an acknowledgement is much lower.

I note from your further comments that you are of the view that your academic supervisors do not understand your topic, and the Dean of the Faculty is "with their side". I also note your comment that they have asked you to withdraw from the university, or at least take a long vacation. Under such circumstances, you should try to engage in some self-reflection and see if you are acting reasonably, or if you might be contributing to the problem. Refusing any acknowledgement of assistance (or at least attempted assistance) by a supervisor suggests that you are not acting in a manner conducive to good relations with your supervisory panel.

It is not entirely impossible that a supervisor could be incompetent to assist a student, or that a Dean could incorrectly side with the supervisor in this case. However, it would be very unusual if multiple professional scholars do not understand the topic of a student they are supervising, and are not able to provide a student with any assistance. Application of Occam's Razor would lead an outside observer to conclude that the more likely explanation is that it is the student might not properly appreciate the efforts made by their supervisors. The refusal even to acknowledge and thank them in a paper contributes to this perception.


However, later I found that they cannot even understand what is my topic.


Then, they asked me to add them in the acknowledgment as they are the supervisors of this project.

simply don't add up. If they are supervisors of some project, chances are they have written the proposal of the project, and defined aims/goals/methods etc.

Moreover, because you are involved in a project supervised by your advisor(s), no matter what you do, they must take some credit. Without them, the project wouldn't exist. Without the project, that particular work wouldn't exist.

A similar reasoning is, when you publish a paper, you write the name of your university even though the university did literally nothing.

By the tone of your question and your tendency to self-righteousness, I think you should be more worried about your future in that project. If your tone to your supervisors is as rude as it is in this post, you probably will have a hard time in near future.

  • I find the objectives of the project, the relative literature reviews (all the papers in my area), data, statistical code to run the algorithm, methodology of every single objective. They entirety did not do anything
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 11:19
  • 4
    @F.AMER They gave you funding and just let you do your own stuff? I'd certainly acknowledge them for that.
    – Karl
    May 12 '18 at 16:36
  • 2
    no matter what you do, they must take some credit — No, I'm sorry, this just isn't correct. If the supervisor provides intellectual guidance or physical/monetary resources, those contributions must be acknowledged. But writing a paper while coincidentally under someone's formal supervision does not require acknowledging that supervision, for the same reason that faculty-authored papers do not automatically acknowledge department chairs and deans.
    – JeffE
    May 12 '18 at 18:05
  • 5
    even though the university did literally nothing — Not true; the university gave you an office, working internet, an email address, and a job title.
    – JeffE
    May 12 '18 at 18:07
  • 2
    Also, I cautiously agree with your comments on the tone of this question. Though there might be language/culture issues involved, the OP's question here seems to lack nuance and consideration of their own potential faults. Hopefully OP can get a diplomatic friend to edit further messages to the supervisor and/or department. May 13 '18 at 5:33

Whether you must add them to the acknowledgements is, I guess, down to your institution.

From a practical and pragmatic perspective, you should add them to the acknowledgements. It doesn't cost you anything, except perhaps some pride, and it avoids worsening relations between you. If you're going to have a fight with them, save it for something that matters :-)


This is likely to be Country and / or Institution dependant, but have you considered speaking to the Dean or the next level above them?

Is there some type pf PhD committee that could help?

Do consider that they may become vindictive if you do not include them and could cause harm or slow down your continuing progress...

  • The Dean is with their side. They asked me to withdrawable from the uni but I said to them I will go to the court. Then, they asked me to have a long vacation. If I do not obey then they will not make me graduated.
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 10:43
  • I am working entirely alone. Even they do not want to help me to know how to deal with a journal to publish my paper.
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 10:44
  • 1
    From the tone of your two comments it sounds like you have already burnt the bridges - “have a long vacation” ergo take some time and think about your next move...
    – Solar Mike
    May 12 '18 at 11:13
  • They want me to have a vacation because they then can easily say for me there are no supervisors for you (this is their rule).
    – user91551
    May 12 '18 at 11:21
  • 4
    Perhaps you should seriously consider finding and moving to another institution...
    – Solar Mike
    May 12 '18 at 11:22

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