In the final month of work before writing the thesis I found a bug in something I did a couple months before. I talked to my supervisor and we checked together that indeed something was off. I took full responsibility and corrected that portion of work.

This way I lost 1.5/2 months out of 6 (where the firsts were only about studying) and I now notice that I really lack content to write. Those lost months weight a lot and are not salvageable. They were the part of the thesis where true work was done.

I don't know how to say this to my supervisor. He is continously pushing me to just write the thesis, but I'm quite sure it's just a way to end the project since, independently of anybody, it was a dead end from the beginning (he admitted we have no idea how to keep going).

Probably those months would not have been that big of a problem if other things we tried before had worked. But the whole idea behind the thesis resulted in a dead end and more time was lost without it being anybody's fault.

I really need a good thesis for PhD admissions (here it counts a lot) and right now I don't have it

Add to this a not exceptional relationship with my advisor,mainly because as soon as this project showed up as a dead end he lost interest, and I think he was (understandably) pissed by my error and really stopped answering to many questions

I'm not exaggerating when I say that much of the work is just a rewriting of well known facts and the new part is very very small and definitely not fine even for a MSc thesis.

Should I consider the possibility of dropping the thesis if in no way my supervisor will let me work a couple extra months to produce new material? Would this make me a selfish student?

I am really embarrassed by my mistake. It was very dumb and I suppose I gave the wrong impression about myself. I chocked under pressure, I guess

  • 2
    It would have been even worse not choking about pressure and spending your time to cover up the error. Yes, you would have a thesis, but you would have learned nothing. On the other hand, the 1.5/2 months you spent working with wrong parameters are not lost. I do not believe you need exactly the same amount of time to redo the work, with the correct parameters.
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 1, 2021 at 8:16
  • Let's say that the kind of work done in those months was already based on a "we don't know what to do" mindset and was meant to be a further study on my subject. With my error corrected it is entirely possible that we would have skipped that phase all together. I will try to suggest to recover it anyway, but I'm not positive my supervisor will want to keep working on this project. It really is a dead end. Research, so it's fine, but not promising
    – Jon T
    Jul 1, 2021 at 8:24
  • 2
    I do not know your subject/topic, but I would say it will be much more worthwhile, even having a PhD in sight, to spend additional time doing an internship in an external research center /university, even in a company, rather than fixing the thesis. About your supervisor: he has no interest in following you, but he is for sure interested in having you getting your degree. You have freedom, fix the error, describe clearly what you did (it's the original part of the thesis), in the conclusions chapter give some oversight of future continuations (conditional to other developments?).
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 1, 2021 at 9:07

1 Answer 1


Do not spend extra months to produce new results on this dead horse. It looks to me you undertook an ambitious thesis (very high risk, moderately high reward) ... and it turned out unsuccesful. However, you are not the one to blame: there is a thesis advisor exactly to avoid these dead-ends.

Do not blame yourself, your advisor should have know better. Regarding your errors, they are experience.

Again, do not fall prey of the sunken cost fallacy: either you complete the thesis in the remaining time (without asking additional months), or you find now a completely new thesis, on a closely related topic (so you do not loose completely the first 1/2 months of work), with a different advisor.

  • Always taking responsibility for my mistake, I must say that I really felt like I was left on my own by my advisor. There was a lot of pressure for results, but very rarely a true feedback. This is a project given to a student hoping it works out, but it didn't and that stressed me a lot. I was thinking about dropping it (after writing a good review for future students) because the communication was never there. I rarely saw my supervisor face to face, it felt like a spare-time project to him. Sadly there is no closely related thesis available
    – Jon T
    Jul 1, 2021 at 8:35
  • 2
    The approach "give to a student, let's see if it has interesting aspect" is a common one, and it is not wrong by itself. What is wrong is the second part "it does not work, who cares, let the student wrap it up". Even discounting the pandemic to your advisor, I am sorry you felt let down. It is surely meaningful to give this private feedback to your advisor (when you are finished with the thesis, even just in written). If the advisor is a human person, it will be a chance for improving, if the feedback is received with a defensive/offensive attitude ... you know what to say to other students
    – EarlGrey
    Jul 1, 2021 at 9:11

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