She says, why do you want to hurry? Let's put the defense in December, then you can have several publications out till then.

I am thinking of asking directly, "What do you think about my PhD work? Are you not happy with my work and is that the reason you are delaying correcting my manuscripts? "

Will that be appropriate? What should I do and tell/ask her?

  • Are the manuscripts part of your thesis? I can understand wanting her to check over your thesis, since her approval is ultimately needed, but if you have potentially publishable manuscripts, then why not just submit them for publication yourself? Or are you still a bit unsure of being able to write to the standards of your field? – Dave L Renfro Feb 17 '19 at 11:47
  • @DaveLRenfro yes, they are part of my thesis. Though I think that my manuscripts are in a potentially publishable state. But, it's a norm in my group to get the manuscripts checked by the supervisor. Grammatically there shouldn't be any mistakes, but she always finds something to be added/more work to be done with the results/discussion section before submitting. It took me 2 iterations of the draft to get my 1st paper published. Same goes for my colleagues. – user104587 Feb 17 '19 at 11:53
  • 3
    Whenever I ask her to correct my manuscripts — It is not your advisor's job to correct your manuscripts. — I am thinking of asking directly, "What do you think about my PhD work?" — What? You haven't been doing this all along??? – JeffE Feb 17 '19 at 14:46
  • 2
    I think the recent edit by @Buffy changed the main thrust of the question. Previously the question could be summarized as Is it wise to ask my supervisor why she is delaying publication of my research? "How am I doing?" is arguably a more important question than "What's the holdup already?", but the existing answers mostly address the latter. – JeffE Feb 17 '19 at 15:29
  • 2
    Well, now the whole situation is gone. This does not seem helpful. Now my answer looks really crazy without the context. The question was: Should I ask my supervisor why she has not given me any feedback, which I need to finish my PhD thesis, for over a year now, while other students got plenty of feedback? – PoorYorick Feb 17 '19 at 16:36

Yes, it is appropriate to ask her what is going on. This is your PhD and she has no right to delay it in the way that she is currently doing. As a supervisor, she is supposed to support you in finishing your thesis, and if she is not doing that, you have a good reason to complain about it.

I do not think that it is even important what she is thinking of your work. If she thinks that your work is bad, that would make it even more important to give you this kind of feedback. So that is not a good reason to not give you feedback, and I also think it's highly unlikely that this is the actual reason why.

I would simply argue with the facts. After 5 years of doing your PhD, you want to be finished soon. In order to do that, you need her to give feedback on the manuscripts. If she says "why the hurry" again, there are several things you can point out, for example:

  1. Postdoc positions usually start in autumn, so in order to get one of those it would be good to have the PhD rather sooner than later, since there is a lot of work to do for applications etc. beforehand.
  2. You feel that you cannot use the additional time productively, since you have done all the work that you wanted to do and do not need to delay any further.

But actually, the question is beside the point, because it is your decision, not hers, and that is not why you are talking to her. If she really tries to derail the conversation in this way, I would call her out on it. "I feel like you are avoiding the actual issue I am addressing here. I have waited for your feedback for 1.5 years now. I think this is clearly too long, and now that I am ready to finish my PhD, I really need that feedback. I can understand that you are busy, but I have the feeling that you are frequently giving my work a low priority. I do not know why you are doing this, but it is frustrating. I currently do not feel appropriately supervised by you."

Well okay, I might have a slightly confrontational nature, so take this with a grain of salt. But I think in such a case it is adequate to criticize her for the lack of supervision that you have experienced throughout your PhD.

A last tip would be to give her deadlines. Usually people prioritize things where they get a clear deadline, even if the deadline is arbitrary. In the best case scenario, you can tie the deadline to an actual milestone of your final phase of the PhD - like maybe you want to say that by the end of March, you want to be done with the actual research and only focus on structure and design of the thesis, so that the deadline for her would be somewhere in March.

  • 1
    +1 for Usually people prioritize things where they get a clear deadline, even if the deadline is arbitrary, among other things. – Dave L Renfro Feb 17 '19 at 13:32
  • 4
    I think this answer started out ok but then went off the rails. Giving your supervisor deadlines sounds extremely risky, depending on personalities. In some fields/places/departments the advisor is in absolute control of your future so demanding can just be like academic suicide. But yes, ask. And let her know that you have a need to finish on an early schedule. I don't see that as risky at all, and might get things moving. But do this face to face, not by email. You want an answer so don't make it too easy to just be ignored. – Buffy Feb 17 '19 at 15:59
  • I feel like setting a deadline is the least off-the-rails part of my answer, to be honest. If a supervisor cannot handle getting told that their PhD student has a time schedule for their PhD and maybe has other plans for his life than writing a PhD for 5+ years, then they are a bad supervisor. – PoorYorick Feb 17 '19 at 16:23
  • In retrospect I agree with @Buffy about deadlines. I still think it's good to have one, but providing a deadline should be done with some care, and probably any deadline should not come across in any way as arbitrary on your [= user104587] part, but rather something that is forced upon you. – Dave L Renfro Feb 17 '19 at 16:37
  • 1
    Hmmm. And if you give a firm deadline and don't meet it. Then what? Give up your degree possibilities? – Buffy Feb 17 '19 at 18:41

I don't know the personalities here nor the way your advisor thinks about things, but, while I'd probably agree that she is wrong, she may, in fact, be trying to place you in as strong a position for your future as possible. Presumably she knows some things about your field and how to be a success starting out. I hope so, anyway. So, I wouldn't just assume that she is trying to obstruct you as the first estimation of what is happening. It could but the opposite, but you are in a better position to judge that than I.

But, you have a legitimate need to finish and move on with an expeditious schedule. And you can express that to her and get a sense of what your path is to an early completion.

Schedule a sit-down meeting in which you (a) let her know you want to be done ASAP and why that is, and (b) what you need to do to accomplish that.

Try to learn, in such a meeting, why she thinks delay is best, if that is actually what is happening. Try to get an honest evaluation of your work.

You will almost certainly want your advisor to be a supporter you in your early career, so try not to jeopardize that. You seldom win by fighting with your advisor.


You gotta fight for your interests. Mousing around will get you continue to being stepped on. The squeeky wheel gets the oil. Yeah Buffy is right, the little tinpots might walk on you if you fight them, but they walk on you a lot harder if you let them without squawking.

Personally I wouldn't ask for "feedback" but movement. Hand in papers that YOU THINK are ready to be submitted. That are how you would submit them as a PI. You should do this regardless, because why have your advisor review something that is not your best effort? So once they meet that bar, it's not hard to see just moving them right to the journals. Stat.

Same with the thesis defense. Just schedule it. What's the worst that can happen? You fail. So. It's a delay either way. So, just push the peanut. Make the cars crash.

As for the thesis, like Michael Schmidt, below, I didn't get any edits from my advisor (or really give him an opportunity). Gave him the doc 10 days before the defense (as was required by the rules). He whined a little, but I said, you're a committee member like the rest. You can fail me if it's not good enough. He didn't fail me...it was a good thesis and good research record. It would have been silly for him to do otherwise. [Of course if your research is not above average, this kind of hardball may not be as feasible.]

P.s. Hanging onto grad students for an extra year to get more papers out of them is a known trait of some professors. Gotta push back on that.

  • While in principle I agree with you, depending on the country, it may not be possible to schedule a defense without the supervisors consent. Also failing could have severe consequences. – user104541 Feb 17 '19 at 21:10

Normally, you both should have the interest to publish as soon as possible. If she doesn't hurry, she has other priorities. That your supervisor/professor has for weeks/months often no time to review your manusscripts is quite usual. But over a year sounds strange to alarming to me, you probably discussed the main statements/abstracts ot those manuscripts with her before writing them.

Other questions are the requirements of your faculty. Technically, you don't need in every country several articles published in peer-reviewed journals. It's your decision and responsibility to write and submit your thesis at some point to the faculty or wait for years for your supervisor. For instance, I didn't show my diploma thesis to my supervisor after writing it to review style and content, I know many students do this and some professors want it, but there are no standards and it had no negative outcome for me.

So, in your case, I would tell here what your timeline is, how much work is left, and when you want to submit your thesis. Making up stories in your mind she might not be happy with your research is a dead end...

  • 1
    Why should the student have the "interest to publish as soon as possible"? – user104541 Feb 17 '19 at 22:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy