I'm a PhD student at a reputable institute in my country. I joined the group of a supervisor who is good at experimental and not so good in analytical front. I also have a co-supervisor who's good at analytics and numerical stuff. Neither know my research problem well.

Initially I had lot of difficulties in understanding the problem. I was a little slow in understanding the analytics. They told me to do lots of stuff here and there. All of them failed. Now I'm in my third year, supervisors are asking me "Are you really interested in your problem, or do you want to leave the course?".

Leaving course mid-way does not make sense for me. But without getting much help from supervisors and working on my own is manageable. Sometimes I get mentally disturbed by their attitude. How do I cope with these supervisors who talk so crazily and seriously at this point of time?

  • 14
    What made you decide to work on a problem that neither you nor your advisors understood?
    – JeffE
    Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 21:26
  • 14
    Although others may disagree, I've always thought a primary function of "advisor" was to be able to provide "inside information" on the advisee's project. If, indeed, you yourself have no special insight into your current project, and no one around you does, you must get a different project, preferably one in which your advisor does have speical expertise. Otherwise you are at a terrific scientific disadvantage. Commented Jul 12, 2013 at 21:57
  • Choosing different project now is as good as starting a new PhD. Its not that I'm not having insight to the problem, I'm little on the slower side because of lack of help from supervisors.
    – DSAK
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 14:35
  • I would like to thank Kathy Smith and scaaahu for the motivation boosters. Now I'm trying to put 100% and doing well. Thanks a lot.
    – DSAK
    Commented Aug 15, 2013 at 7:14

2 Answers 2


It would be interesting to know what is the subject or area of your research project. After 3 years, there has had to have been a passion to carry out the goals. Follow your dreams. You could be on to something that will help humankind so really take a bit of a breather and handle any doubts of your own. Visualize the future for a moment by seeing a DONE goal that you would enjoy with the same passion moving forward and having a team with you to help out. Sometimes debugging a project can be like watching grass grow. Find things similar to your dream and make a list of successful actions and put those back in and knock off trying to cope. A new strategy and approach to the supervisors will help rekindle their enthusiasm for you as it was in the beginning. Take the project back to where you were doing well. What happened just after... that is all that needs an adjustment.

  • I've been working on experimental simulation of hydrodynamics at low-g on earth. Thanks a lot.
    – DSAK
    Commented Jul 14, 2013 at 10:41

I would suggest you to write a preliminary research findings report to both of your supervisors.

In the report, explain what you have done in the past two years. State the facts. Don’t point the fingers. You describe what you have tried and why they failed. Don’t make it too long. Refer the details to the notes and the data stored somewhere else. The final section of the report is your plan to tackle the problem further.

The purpose of the report is to let them be aware of the efforts you have spent. It documents the lessons learned. With the report, your supervisors and you would have more understandings about the problem you have been working on for two years. Bear this in your mind, it is likely you would know more about the problem when you write the report.

The report will answer their questions, Are you really interested in your problem? Yes. you wanna leave the course? No. But you need their help to finish it. If they tell you they can’t help you after they read the report, then it’s time to either change the research problem or find yourself another supervisor(s).

  • Thanks @scaaahu. I think more or less you have answered my question.
    – DSAK
    Commented Jul 13, 2013 at 14:31

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .