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I meet with my PhD advisor quite irregularly so we arrange meetings on an ad-hoc basis depending on work progress, availability etc. Usually we communicate a bunch by email about the state of work.

I'm want to leave my course. I don't see how any minor changes to my work would change this decision. At this point I mostly just want to have a couple weeks of mental health break with no pressure to put time into the PhD, so I can have some brain-space to clear the remaining doubts from my head.

Should I let my advisor know that the meeting we are scheduling for later this week is about my position in the programme instead of normal project progress report?

PS. I am aware that a natural way to frame this would be to mention in an email that there I have some doubts about my work that I'd like to discuss. However that would be misleading - I'm pretty set on the idea that doing this degree is not right for me and the only doubts I have are whether this is the right decision at this time. I'm not interested in being convinced I should stay and try to "work things out" because my decision to leave is related less to problems I have with the course and more to simply having no reason why I should want to be doing it in the first place.

  • I didn't get, do you want to discuss taking a break from your work, or leave and take it after, could you please elaborate more? – user103209 Jan 21 at 14:27
  • I want to communicate my intention to leave and request that my departure doesn't happen immediately but that I have a couple weeks to set my mind. – JelloBob Jan 21 at 14:38
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    'I want to leave no matter what' and 'need two weeks to think' are not consistent. – guest Jan 21 at 16:54
  • @guest - I didn't say I want to leave "no matter what". I said I don't see my mind changing because my reasons for leaving are not related to anything that can be changed about the nature of work in the academia. I feel I need the time to mull over it myself, not to debate it with others. – JelloBob Jan 21 at 16:55
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If you think that there is any possibility that the advisor can adjust your working arrangement enough to let you continue, then it would be better to give him/her a heads up before the meeting. That way thought can be given before the meeting and so it needn't be so ad-hoc.

But have an idea of what you would need for yourself going in to such a meeting so you have some basis for discussing options.

Leaving a degree is a big step, make sure it is the right one. And make sure that others have a chance to try to work it out with you if there is any way possible. But for that, they, themselves, need a time for reflection.

And, as per your final thoughts in the question, have an idea about what you want the alternative to be. Ending with nothing isn't a very happy outcome.

But the goal isn't to get you to change your mind. Rather it is to find a way so that the conditions are appropriate and the future is clearer.

  • As I've already mentioned, there is not much that can be worked out in therms of working arrangement that would convince me to stay. It feels like it would be like taking couples therapy for a few-month relationship you've been hesitant to enter in the first place. – JelloBob Jan 21 at 14:40
  • I do agree with Buffy, I dont know how many months have you been in the program, you must have back-up plans whether applying to another interesting program, what are your plans! But, honestly, I do think you must have an honest speak with your supervisor, maybe things can get better. – user103209 Jan 21 at 14:49
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    I do have a plan. I've been in industry for a couple years before the PhD and I am intending to return there. – JelloBob Jan 21 at 15:03
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Let him know what is on your mind, ASAP.

Personally, I can't imagine needing a scheduled meeting for this. It is a big deal after all. I would just go into his office and say you need to talk.

I feel ya on how academia can be pretty whack. But with 2 years in, it might make sense to prevail. Say if you can do another 2 years and go. There is also the issue of masters to consider.

You don't say what is bugging you, either. But I would try to think through the issues (list them) and how to fix. If it is an intractable problem or one with no "along the way" publications, there may be options to change the paradigm so you can start generating results.

The not sharing the issues along with the 'needing a couple weeks peace' along with not having a specific job lined up makes it sound like you are a little frustrated. Try not to quit in pique.

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    There are specific reasons for me to go which I did not list here because my intention was not to have a 'should I stay or leave' question but a 'how to communicate leaving' kind of question. – JelloBob Jan 21 at 16:25
  • Yeah, I get that. I am still reading the tea leaves on your mood, man. – guest Jan 21 at 16:27
  • I donno. To me sounds like you want to talk to the old man. If it were just a matter of going, you wouldn't need this thread. Would have already dropped a letter on him and the school. – guest Jan 21 at 16:30

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