UPDATE: I completed all data collection and writing for my dissertation and have my defense scheduled for next month (January 2022). I also still received satisfactory progress and funding. Several months after the initial post, I think my advisor realized COVID wasn't going away any time soon, so I was allowed to propose my dissertation in Fall 2020 and collect all data remotely. I will be staying in my current city in a remote industry job.

I’m doing my Ph.D. research in cognitive development using in-person experiments with children, which has stopped indefinitely due to COVID-19. I passed my preliminary exam last month, so I only need to propose and defend my dissertation.

I want to propose this spring/summer and defend by fall 2021 so I can stay in this city and get an industry job, but my advisor keeps pushing me to take a 6th year so I can publish and be more competitive for academia, despite me telling her many times that I want to leave academia. Now that in-person studies have stopped, my advisor is basically forcing me to take a 6th year and wants to push my dissertation proposal to this fall (which would give me unsatisfactory progress, thus possibly eliminating my funding). I asked about proposing a partially online experiment so I could gather data this summer, but she refuses to let me do any online data collection for my dissertation. I really don’t want to take a 6th year of a low stipend when I could be financially stable with an industry job, and I don’t want to possibly spend next year unfunded.

Is there any way I can negotiate with her so I can finish this degree sooner rather than later?

  • 4
    What do the other people on your committee say? Who at your institution have you asked for advice? In my experience, peer pressure is much more effective than any of your negotiating skills.
    – Dawn
    Apr 1, 2020 at 19:08
  • Perhaps helpful: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/114193/…
    – Dawn
    Apr 1, 2020 at 19:15
  • 3
    Is taking prelims typical in the fourth year for your program? That's very late for cog programs I'm familiar with Apr 1, 2020 at 19:36
  • 1
    Interesting. I'm sorry you're caught up in this, but it seems like we really won't be able to make decisions for a month or two more. Apr 1, 2020 at 19:42
  • 3
    "I only need to propose and defend my dissertation" -- there's an elided "write the dissertation" step in there, right? Jul 13, 2020 at 21:04

1 Answer 1


Very sorry to hear about your situation. I know of others, like yourself, who've had their research stalled as a result of the COVID-19 situation. I must say, I was taken aback shocked to hear about such inflexibility on part of your supervisor:

I asked about proposing a partially online experiment so I could gather data this summer, but she refuses to let me do any online data collection for my dissertation.

If you haven't yet already, then you should really have a heart to heart with your supervisor and explain to them how you're feeling. Try and see if it is, in fact, the case that they are fixed on this issue. Should collecting data online be a feasible means for you to collect data for dissertation and defend by the fall, it would be very unreasonable on your supervisor's part to not allow you to do this. So if your supervisor is firm on this position, I'd recommend consulting with your department's ombudsman or even head. It is definitely not fair that you should be held back if that is not a necessary outcome, and merely reflects your supervisor's research motivations.

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