I am doing my MSc thesis research and it is becoming apparant to me that my supervisor does not have that much domain knowledge in the field that I am in. She has some idea but by no means is she even close to an expert in the field - I say this because I am reading papers in my field (Operations Research) and her papers are not published in OR journals.

I am curious if others have had this experience and had to essentially lonewolf their MSc thesis? It's unfortunate because I would like to have conversations with her about the field, but she doesn't know enough to talk fluidly.

  • I think it is fairly common, though not universal. My suggestion always, though too late for you, is to pick a topic that accords well with the advisor's interests. It isn't an impossible situation. But perhaps you should have taken the advice you got in your May question. – Buffy Aug 8 '19 at 20:18
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    I've supervised a number of master's projects that were very far from my specialty. The master's supervisor is there to guide you as you learn how to do good research and then write about it, they don't need to be experts in your exact topic for that. – GrotesqueSI Aug 9 '19 at 19:05
  • this is fairly common, and shows that you are capable of independent research (rather than simply following specific instructions). Try to find other faculty (in this school or others) that might be interested in talking to you. – Bald Bear Aug 9 '19 at 19:31

I don’t think this is that strange. My PhD supervisor had almost no clue about the intricate details of my field, and no previously published papers in the field until we began to work together.

I was able to identify his strengths and use them to my advantage. For example, he was a very talented mathematician and I was working on some heavy-duty equations which I struggled with. I knew he would be able to help, without having the slightest idea about what the equations physically represented.

In your words, I (and probably many other people) had to “lonewolf” the majority of my PhD with only little nuggets of help along the way. I think it is our own responsibility to read the literature, find gaps etc. then seek help when you have a real problem? Not just “what papers do I need to read” and so on.

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