I will try to briefly summarize my dilemma.

I'm a master's student and we have the option to do "Guided Research", which is a module worth some credit points and requires us to conduct research in some area, possibly with a publication as a result.

For this, I have contacted a PhD student A at my uni and asked him to supervise me. I thought he wouldn't reply and contacted another PhD student B (from a different uni, that's possible here) and approached him with my idea. B replied and we have already discussed a bit. The topic for this, however, has a few risks which might result in an infeasible project scope.

Now, contrary to my expectations, A has replied and suggested two topics of which I find one interesting. My priority is working with B because he's a member of the group I wish to join after my master's, and the field is more interesting to me. A's work is a great opportunity but only if "Plan B" fails. I am currently investing time in B but don't want to reject A completely, in case B fails.

How do I make sure "I am cool" with A while not stalling the situation and annoying him unnecessarily? Preferably being honest, I would like to say something along the lines of "I like your project, but have another one as priority, and would like to resort to your project in case the other fails." There is no time pressure yet, but I am assuming A wants to finalize things in the coming weeks.


I like being honest and not wanting to lead A on, but I wouldn’t formulate it as you write it here - that you’d like to work with him in case another project fails. Keep in mind too that it will take probably some time before you know if B fails. One option is to tell A that you contacted someone else too who also wants to work with you, and if you could have a little time to decide what to pursue, and reasonably until when. I’d add that whichever of his two suggestions you found interesting is an exciting idea (pfundig, host mi?, to stay local).

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