I am in the fourth year of a part-time PhD. Lately I have found it very difficult to stay focused. I was really motivated at the start of this academic year, but my supervisor wanted me to do things in a slightly different way to how I was doing them: I wanted to collect field data from all over my territory sporadically - this would have made things fresh and interesting and I would have weaved things together at the end - whereas they wanted me to focus on one thing over a period of time.

Since I had this discussion with my supervisor things have fallen really flat. I have no motivation, I'm continually procrastinating and I keep making excuses at tutorials (a lot of which are true, but they haven't affected things quite to the extent that I have made out).

Should I be honest with my supervisor and tell them the way they suggested I do things doesn't work for me? Or should I just force myself to continue in the way they suggested? I often think that if I did things 'my way' I would have more success in collecting field data but if I do things 'their way' I just end up more bored. This is not to say my supervisor hasn't made good suggestions - she has in many cases - but this is not one that makes me more productive.

I am not thinking of quitting, but something in the methodology has to change.


3 Answers 3


I would think that framing it as "being bored" isn't going to be helpful, even if it is true. But you can certainly have a new conversation, suggesting that you think you would make more progress with a different strategy.

And burn-out is pretty common at your stage of things, so maybe it is that. I don't know whether telling the PI that you are starting to feel burned out and need something to refresh you would be helpful or not, but likely better than "bored". But it is a question of knowing the supervisor well enough to judge their likely reaction.

And be sure to telegraph that you aren't at the point of quitting.


The answer to this is 2 parts. Part 1: If the suggestion from your Professor was to ensure a solid study design for the research project. I would chalk this up to the tedium of research. I often mention to potential students that the PhD teaches you the tedium of research. Research isn't always interesting all the time. Sometimes to get the work done you have to some repetitive and uninteresting tasks. Part 2: If the quality of the study design isn't affected and you'd prefer to do it another way that is just more interesting to you. I think it is fine to bring up to your advisor that this other way "excites" you more. And ask if there is a way you can do that instead or in the very least incorporate it into the project.


I think your plan of a goon should include the goal you would like to accomplish. As a fourth year PhD I would guess you are reasonably close to graduating. What are your plans for after graduation? How will the current research impact those plans? Is it worth trying to accelerate the path to graduation or is it better to work on a methodology/project that sets you up for your next steps?

I think answers to those questions should drive your decisions. Of course though to echo others: Sating you are bored is very unlikely to accomplish anything useful.

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