Brief explanation:

I have came up with an M.Sc. thesis idea to my advisor 11 months ago. She supervised but especially in last months not sufficiently for reasons, and I have added very much content at those times. She then led me to the committee without being able to read thesis completely and committee members also were not related to the subject. In presentation of the thesis, one of the member started to ask weird questions and gave reactions to my answers in a humiliating tone, and with time other members forbid me to answer the questions and as a result they simply asked something and automatically assumed that I did not know about that and I should correct them in thesis. Later, I was behaved like I actually was not worth to be graduated but they still granted me with that. Finally, I feel to be judged unfairly and very depressed. I wonder how much I am to blame here.

Chronologic long explanation:

I have made a modeling research on nitrate reactive transport in groundwater. For 10 months, without a single day break I have worked on learning the required tools, finding data from internet, conducting models, writing thesis and also consulting relevant faculty. At the end we had more than 180 pages of a thesis document. But the committee members we were able to find were not actually relevant to topic, the relevant ones simply ignored or rejected the offers for unknown reasons, without seeing the thesis/aim or anything.

My advisor was not able to allocate time to thoroughly read the thesis for again many reasons and as such, I had not even seen her for 3 months before committee, and only met her 10 minutes before it. In other words, it is an unfortunate fact that my advisor led me to the committee without comprehending my thesis study and unable to find relevant people for judging the suitability of my thesis for graduation. And for making things worse, I was only able to give my thesis to committee members 4 days before the event. And I have said to my advisor that one of the member did not even seem to understand a thing in the topic while I was explaining.

So the presentation commenced. I have extremely focused on my rehearsal and swiftly explained it. Afterthat, the questions came. With exception of one or two, all of them were clear misunderstandings, and again carelessness. They simply wanted me to add something to thesis with I already did, but they just did not look at those chapters so they did not know. One of them again asked a thing which I definitely clearly did in the document, and when I said so in a direct way, she got frustrated and simply tried to find an opening and humiliate me. She was unsuccessful in such attempts but as she kept getting angrier whenever I replied, other members did not permit me to answer questions anymore and they decided that I really did not know how to answer them. By humiliating, I really meant it, such as " you don't know what you are talking about, you can't say whatever you want" etc. even if it is not the case. Sometimes my advisor cut my answer and claimed something completely incorrect about my thesis and the members stopped taking me seriously, as it contradicted with my more than hour explanations and they simply automatically assumed that advisor knows the thesis much more than the actual writer. And as with my gossip about a member not understanding a thing, my advisor directly said these words to other members (this one is different than the frustrated one, albeit she also acted in the same way).

Then they let me out and decided about the outcome, as a result they declared that "normally you would get an extension but we thought maybe you will correct your mistakes in one month length so we let you graduate". They stated a couple of times that a thesis should be understood even by a five-year-old child, with a serious complexion. Yet, I even know that some of the members did not even upload their M.Sc. thesis to online national database, which has been obligatory since 2006 and voluntarily for thesis done before, let alone 5 year old no one even is able to reach.

I know there are theses much worse in condition than mine, also there are thesis much better. I have tried to do something sufficient. Yet, without any clear understanding by them I feel like I was harshly judged. As I explained, I have worked on this without a one day break for more than 10 months, might sound to some as feeble, but no one I saw worked harder than me around. I felt like a complete failure and really lost my motivation on even doing a simplest things I enjoyed before.

I might take any advice on how to cope with this depression as it is directly related to the overall process, I want to know how much I am to blame here given the circumstances.

closed as unclear what you're asking by Anonymous Physicist, scaaahu, gman, Buzz, Bob Brown Sep 11 '18 at 16:44

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 1
    Find out what you CAN do. If you do think, that you have been threated not in a fair way, and therefore you get a bad final grade, you might object the result of the committee. Check the regulations of your university carefully. As louic says, we can't judge it from the information that we have, but I wouldn't simply accept it if there are ways. If it is really true that some of the examiners haven't read the thesis completely, then this is really not acceptable. – S. M. Roch Sep 9 '18 at 11:26
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    I think this is a complaint, not a question. – Anonymous Physicist Sep 10 '18 at 10:17

We cannot judge who was right and who was wrong without having been there and having read the thesis. Given your description, you may have been right at some of the points, but it looks to me that there is also a lot you can learn from the comments you got from the committee.

Therefore the best advice I can give you is to accept your graduation and move on. Above all, I advise you to learn from the experience and see what you can change in the future (both scientifically and personally) to prevent similar problems from occurring.

It is not important to find out who is to blame. The only thing that matters is what you can change to improve yourself and get better at dealing with criticism in the future: this may not be easy, but blaming others (or yourself) is useless, regardless of who is right: just learn from the experience and move on.


There isn't much you can do after the fact to change what happened with your thesis committee, as louic mentions.

However, there are certainly some red flags to me in the proceedings that you could have controlled. The biggest issue is related to the length of the thesis. A master's thesis that is 180 pages long seems very excessive—this is as long as or even longer than many PhD theses. The consequences of turning in a document that long are significant. First, many schools have length restrictions on the thesis document; you may have "lucked out" and attend a school that doesn't. But it is entirely possible at some schools that your thesis would be rejected on length arguments alone.

More importantly, reading, let alone, reviewing such a long document takes time. You gave your committee your thesis four days before your defense. The odds that every member of the committee read it in that time, given its length and the short timeline, is essentially zero. By doing so, you already placed yourself in a hole with respect to the thesis defense. Because the committee was likely already in a bit of a foul mood after getting such a large document and didn't have time to review it, they were probably more likely to be combative than if the process had gone more smoothly.

You may also be in a department (or had thesis committee members whose "home department") that has a culture where the thesis defense is intentionally "confrontational." This is unfortunate when it takes place but depends on the composition of the committee and is something the student has little control over.

  • I'd say that judging a thesis merely by its length, without knowing any details, isn't really helpful. Half of it might be data tables, diagrams, whatever. Although I'm in a different field, computer science, my master thesis 25 years ago was just as long or more. But half of it was source code. No committee was expected to read every single line of it, of course, but simply put, yes, the thesis was that long. – Gábor Jan 13 at 12:13