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I am a third-year Ph.D. student in computer science. I have finished all course requirements and I work full-time as a software engineer at a FAANG company. I am doing my best trying to balance time between work and school. But today I had a meeting with my advisor and he said by the end of summer he expects me to wrap up all my thesis work.

Basically, I did

  • One year of study the research material and taking graduate-level courses to study the problem
  • One year of research to understand the problem and come up with the solution
  • One year of solving the problem, coding, and showing my method worked

What is remaining is writing a paper and defense.

My advisor is very strict and I am kind of surprised he said that. I don't feel like I have accomplished anything yet and there is more to the problem. Should I try to explain the work is not finished yet? Or maybe he is getting tired of me and wants to focus on other problems.

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  • 15
    In some countries (including France) the PhD delays are very strict, and defined by law. If the PhD is funded by some HorizonEurope or Horizon2020 project, the delays are imperative. Apr 20 at 5:24
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    And delays for submitting a paper to any CS conference are also very strict. At last, every PhD defense has some future work section and a lot of CS conference papers have one too. BTW, I would be happy to read your paper draft -if it is written in English- in PDF - in relation to the RefPerSys project. If you want to, please email me at basile@starynkevitch.net Apr 20 at 5:28
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    It's hard to guess what your advisor is thinking. You should ask him to clarify. To me, it sounds like you have done enough to start writing up, but as @BasileStarynkevitch says this depends on the policies of your advisor, university and funding body.
    – astronat
    Apr 20 at 6:08
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    Also do not forget, there is the (small) chance that somebody else publishes the same approach. This is not a huge risk, but if you delay by a year it adds unecessary risk.
    – lalala
    Apr 21 at 17:25
  • What did you sign up to and how is that different from what your advisor is now demanding? Apr 21 at 22:12
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Working full-time as both a software engineer and a Ph.D. student is unsustainable. If writing a thesis based upon the results you have is likely to suffice (speak to fellow students, read theses of prior students, speak to your advisor), I'd suggest you take that route. Reduce your workload to something more sustainable. Your thesis needn't be your best work; your thesis need only get you a PhD. Graduate, pursue the next step.

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    Agreed. I worked full time during my engineering PhD. It was unpleasant and took forever. I read the OP and was instantly envious for how quickly they might get through it. Take it and run!!!! Apr 20 at 15:25
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    I'm in the same position, my advisor is telling me I have to extend, so being told you have to finish implies to me that the advisor is happy with the progress and thinks it's sufficient to defend. That seems like a far less worse outcome than being told you need to request an extension because full time work is interferring with your progress. Apr 20 at 22:28
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Perhaps you are forgetting that the goal of earning a PhD is to get it finished and move on. Well, no, there are other goals, of course, but you seem to have completed them. But certainly the goal is not to make a career of being a student.

I think that the professor is giving you good advice and that you have done enough by their standards, and that of the institution, that you should just write it up and move on. Your third bullet point certainly suggest that.

As for "work yet to do", it is really a good thing to leave a PhD program with ideas for future research and publications. You don't have to stop, assuming that your employment permits it. And your life will probably get a bit simpler for a while if you have only one "job".

I think you should take the advice and move on in your career. I'd have given the same advice as your advisor in this situation. And it wouldn't be that I was "tired of you". Not at all.

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    I think you could improve this answer by removing the first two sentences. The goal of ... is to get it finished and move on fits for any goal because that is the definition of a goal. The last sentence ("The goal is not to make a career of being a student.") is strong. Apr 20 at 19:51
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    It's still a useful reminder, because when tackling any goal it's possible to lose sight of the target
    – Phill
    Apr 22 at 1:09
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While I'm from a different field, the situation of handling work with PhD is similar. I'm making some assumptions based on that similarity, feel free to reject them if they are invalid.

Possibly you feel that the PhD is your last chance to tackle an important research problem and make significant contributions. Possibly you enjoy the academic nature of the course and would like it to go on a little longer. As others have shared, these need not end with the program. Rather, the program is aimed at giving you some tools and directions to further refine the work that you'll do subsequently (whether that includes basic, applied or developmental research).

An advisor who wants you to finish early is arguably better than one who wants you to finish later than you would like to. It may be a good idea to discuss your progress and immediate work plan with the advisor, get their suggestions and perspectives and make an honest assessment of whether you have enough results to defend the thesis. If you do, you're in an excellent position, good luck!

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Yah, been there, done that. Write the thesis (BTW, that is NOT trivial and much good additional work comes from the writing), defend and then get onto doing more good work, Herr Docktor.

If you were planning on an academic career, I might agree with holding off. In academia, your productivity is measured in papers after you earn your Ph.D so getting in more research first allows you to blitz articles as soon as you defend.

But in industry, you use your credentials as a lever. "AB.D" is not a credential and too easily bestowed while you are working.

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