Suppose you have written part of a thesis(normally a PhD thesis in my field has 2-3 parts, each part may be different from the others).

How is it handled if you change advisors? Can you keep the parts of the thesis you have completed?

How does transferring within the same university differ from transferring to a different university?

  • Ask your new supervisor. Likely depends whether you changed topics.
    – user151413
    Jul 20 '20 at 22:41

The answer depends entirely on your advisor and program/university's policies (especially the 'new' one of each).

I know of several people who changed PhD advisors for a variety of reasons: loss of advisor's funding, advisor moving to a different university, unexpected inability of an advisor to continue advising (illness, death, etc), personal conflict.

In these cases, when students had made substantial process, their prior work was included in their thesis when they moved to a new advisor within the same program. Some of these advisors worked closely with the previous advisor, or were part of the student's thesis committee.

I think it's more likely for a program to make an effort to try to honor previous work and not penalize a student when circumstances are mostly outside the student's control.

I don't know of any examples where someone transferred from one university to another and used prior work towards a thesis, but transfers between universities are rare for PhDs in general.

  • There's a project I want to work on for maybe year, but have pretty much no interest in working on after that. I'm interested in another sub area of the same general field though. I'm considering how difficult it would be to finish up this project and then move onto another advisor if mine isn't interested in working on this other area. Jul 21 '20 at 0:25
  • 3
    @FourierFlux That's not usually how a PhD works. I wouldn't recommend starting with an advisor you don't plan to finish with (and doing so is incredibly rude), changing advisors is for situations that cannot be salvaged. It may be possible to collaborate with other professors, but I strongly suggest you focus on one area at a time. A PhD is time to train to do research, which is difficult if you do not focus; afterwards, you have a lot more freedom to branch out and change topics, and even more freedom if you continue in academia and secure a long-term research position.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 21 '20 at 0:50
  • I will finish the project I started, but I won't continue after that in this area. I have no responsibility to continue and don't see any obligation. I wouldn't mind using the same advisor but if they aren't interested in my interests I see nothing wrong with switching. Jul 21 '20 at 2:18
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    @FourierFlux Based on your history of questions, I suspect you don't really care what people think so I don't know why you keep asking here. You may see it as not wrong, but I reiterate to you that it seems quite rude to me. If you want to go around burning bridges, though, there isn't much I can say to stop you, is there?
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 21 '20 at 17:37
  • 1
    @FourierFlux A PhD advisor is not an employer, they are a mentor and resource to your learning.
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 21 '20 at 20:57

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