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I am currently working on finishing my PhD thesis. For about 3 years and 6 months of my study, I am suffering from the absence of my supervisors. She always travels for 6 months, sometimes two months without contact. My second supervisor takes only 20% as supervision.

Any help, please?

closed as off-topic by Solar Mike, user3209815, corey979, gman, Dmitry Savostyanov Jan 23 at 11:32

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    If you had these "poorly defined" objectives, then theses should have been sorted out much earlier than at this late stage. – Solar Mike Jan 22 at 13:16
  • Is there a head of department or any student support at your university? – Emilie Jan 22 at 13:49
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    @Maryam, the only thing you can do in those late stages is to be polite with them and ask them what they want exactly and do whatever the second bad advisor asked. This is the only way to get salvation with your study. I know it is not easy and I totally understand your fears as I have been in a similar situation, just pray everything gets easier. For sure, the nicest emails will not change something, however, listen to them and ask what is needed to be finished asap. – Monika Jan 22 at 15:46
  • @Emilie, yes there is a head but he is very biased with them. – Maryam Jan 22 at 16:23
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    Yes, that is very unfortunate. I guess I was more asking if there are other faculty members who might feel your work warrants a doctorate. Someone who might advocate of your behalf with their colleagues and/or potentially join your committee. If you had such an ally, it would likely be a big help. – JonSG Jan 22 at 18:47
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If things are as you describe there is likely no help for you on this site. Ultimately, you need to make your supervisor(s) happy with your work.

I can see elements of misfeasance (lack of doing the job properly) here, but we can't solve that. An email, even if polite, isn't going to solve your problems.

If you believe that your advisor hasn't properly guided you and is now abandoning you, then you need to deal with that locally. Either by working out a better (closer) relationship with the advisor or making an appropriate complaint to local authorities.

But even if you make a successful complaint, it won't get you any closer to a degree and might get you farther away.

The question I would want to ask of the advisor is about what you need to do to earn the doctorate. If you can get a plan, a written plan, and it is reasonable, then just do that and move on.

You attribute bad motives to both of your advisors. That may be true, but it may also be a problem. If the second advisor is just "devil's advocate" it can actually strengthen your work, as long as that is all it is. Saying that your advisor doesn't want a written record may be true, but if true is a serious allegation. If I were adjudicating your case, I would question that sort of statement.

Look first for a path to completion. If that is impossible, then an MS/MA may be all you can reasonably achieve in this situation. If it allows you to go on afterwards it may be good enough, though clearly not ideal. But find out, if you can, what it would take to make the advisors happy. Make sure it is clear and in writing.

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You have previously posted questions about how to better communicate with your advisors, which seems to be the main issue here. They seem to have chosen to be absent from their advisory role.

This could have happened for a variety of reasons: being away a lot, hoping that the other advisor would do the job, you not living up to their expectations... I think it’s not important why: after 3.5 years the best you can do is cut your losses and think of alternatives.

An email would not resolve three plus years of miscommunication. Once your advisors repeatedly doubt your ability to successfully graduate it is very unlikely that you will, at least not under their guidance.

I’m really sorry but I think it’s past the point of reconciliation. Get out, think of alternative paths. Good luck!

  • Thank you for your answer. My second supervisor told me in-person meeting that my topic is complex for him and I have better knowledge than him (I swear). Then, he asked my first supervisor to put me under review. Once, I told him what he said about the complexity of my topic, he refuses that and said he did not say that at all. – Maryam Jan 22 at 14:54
  • I have better knowledge than him — I should hope so!! – JeffE Jan 23 at 11:34

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