My PhD advisor did not provide any kind of feedback or correction on my writing for the manuscript we recently submitted.

My writing is good for a PhD student but for sure far from perfect. Yet the only input he gave me was to suppress the exaggeration of our results, he implicitly called me a narcissist, and we finally agreed that I will not suppress the promotion of the accuracy of our results everywhere, but we will let our 3rd collaborator (another professor) decide whether we overstate the results or not.
The 3rd author didn't think that our results were exaggerated so we kept my version.

Still I didn't get any kind of feedback/update on the text I wrote as I expected!

Since the article was quite lengthy my advisor also wrote some parts of the 1st draft, which at the end I found myself "correcting" because the thoughts seemed to be scattered and not ordered in a logical order.

Since I am currently writing another 2 papers with him and eventually my thesis, I don't know where I can find feedback on the writing if he doesn't provide any (either because he can't or because he doesn't want). Yet I don't want my papers to be badly written because I didn't have anyone to advice me on that part...

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    Was there an implication you are a narcissist besides asking to not exaggerate results? Because that certainly does not imply narcissism and there is no reason to take offense, it's simply an argument of style and balance that is important for a student to learn.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 25, 2020 at 23:26
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    Second, separate question: have you asked for feedback on the writing, or just on the manuscript overall? How do other people see and review your writing (fellow students working with your advisor, collaborators/other authors, friends in a related field, etc)?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 25, 2020 at 23:27
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    I didn't explicitly ask for feedback on writing. But I was expecting that since this is one of the roles of the advisor. My professor for my Masters would always return a text with several corrections. As I said my writing is good, but for sure far from perfect. After we submitted the paper, my advisor told me that I have good writing style, but that was the 1st paper I wrote and I would have been aware if I had some strange writing talent... Jun 25, 2020 at 23:38
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    1. He was probably joking about the Trump thing, I wouldn't make too much of that. 2. Different professors have different styles, try to ask explicitly next time maybe? Jun 25, 2020 at 23:48
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    Agree with @BlueElephant - seems like a joke, and if anything it's a comment on writing that sounds grandiose not stating that you are grandiose (or narcissistic) - the difference is really really important: one of them is feedback (of the kind you are asking for, actually, even if not exactly what you had in mind), the other is quite rude.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 25, 2020 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


Communicate more directly with your advisor about your expectations: state that you are concerned about your writing and would prefer more feedback on it, and be specific. Are you concerned about organization? Word choice? Grammar?

If your advisor isn't a native English speaker, they may not be the best person to give you feedback on some of these; they may themselves make mistakes in grammar and word choice even with more experience writing papers. In that case, you can ask them for advice on who else in your circle might help.

At my own institution, there is also a writing center that caters to undergraduate and graduate students alike; they won't copy edit your work for you, but they'll help you work on proofreading and editing skills. Your institution might have something similar.

Beware also of the impostor syndrome: you might be overcritical of your own work, so don't be too skeptical if you get feedback that your writing is actually good. That said, everyone can improve their writing at every stage of their career, so don't skip opportunities to read about writing and find stories about how others have become better writers or discovered bad tendencies and worked to correct them.

  • I think I want more high level feedback (like whether the thoughts were nicely organised and whether I managed to get the message through). Therefore I think a writting center probably cannot really help since the people working there probably will not be able to understand anyways what I am trying to explain.... For grammatical errors I asked a colleague who is native speaker to have a look and he indeed found some points requiring update. Jun 26, 2020 at 0:13
  • @Di.Ma Sounds like you know what you need, now just have to communicate it!
    – Bryan Krause
    Jun 26, 2020 at 1:28

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