I am a master physics student in a German univerisity. I started with my master thesis topic in May 2019 and at that time I had wrong evaluation about the pre-requisite and difficulty of the topic I chose. Later on, I found most of the problems/papers that I need to solve/read, I almost do not have any pre-requisite knowledge for them and I have to learn from the basics each time by myself, and I encountered many problems while self-learning the basics which I do not know whom to ask (due to the pandemic, I have to work alone in my hometown in my country and I do not have a suitable friend I could think of to ask questions) and I felt my interest for the master thesis topic got wiped out after these very difficult processes.

I have long time depression, and had been taking anti-depressant regularly before, but then I stopped taking them due to the negative effect of being sleepy and other negative symptoms which makes me hard to concentrate on study.

I also face a lot of pressure from my parents, and I am often told to finish the thesis as soon as possible though I have explained that it is too difficult, so I currently moved out from my home and live outside in order to get more concentrated on study and avoid receiving the pressure from my parents.

My current situation is that I have already taken more than 2 years in the thesis (where normally it lasts for 1 year) and I have applied several extensions for my thesis topic but I felt the extension is not bringing too much help for me, as I am still depressed and the problems are still difficult. Each day I cannot control myself well and waste a lot of time doing other non-related things, and I feel very demotivated and I do not see any hope to solve the endless difficult problems in order to complete this thesis. I wish to know if any of you could give me some advice/share your experience in how to dealing with my situation. Thank you very much for reading.

1 Answer 1


Firstly, I'm sorry to hear you are in such a bad spot. Your question strongly depends on individual factors (which is why people are voting to close). Given your circumstance, it would be a shame for us to give you no advice, so I am going to sneak in an answer before this gets closed. The most important thing to do here is to speak to your supervisor and lay out all these problems and see what your options are. Universities commonly face cases where students are out of their depth, and dealing with concurrent depression.

There are a lot of separate issues here, but the aggregate effect seems to be that you are no longer making substantial forward progress on your topic, and you are unlikely to be able to complete your thesis. Postgraduate university degrees sometimes have a mechanism to allow you to "drop back" to a lower level program in cases where you are unable to complete the requirements of your present program. In this case, it might be possible to negotiate to drop back from a Masters degree by research to a lower-level coursework program (e.g., Graduate Diploma, Masters by coursework, etc.). If such an option exists, I recommend you take it eagerly and don't worry about the drop in level. If such an option does not exist, you should ask about options for taking extended leave from the program. If this is not possible, you will have to make a difficult decision about leaving the program entirely.

Given your circumstances, I see little point in trying fruitlessly to progress on problems that are too advanced for you; the likely effect is to aggravate your depression, waste your time, and damage your status in your program. You should consider putting aside your advanced research topic and dropping back to learning introductory and intermediate material that is within your present capabilities. Try to remain active, go for walks, eat healthy, get enough sleep, and do what you need to do to make your life more manageable and enjoyable. And again, talk to your supervisor. Good luck.

(Please feel free to email me if you would like further general advice or just a sympathetic chat.)

  • Thank you very much Ben! I am grateful that you took your time reading my post and gave me these tips and I am willing to take some of them to try to improve my current situation. All the best wishes to you!
    – jack
    Sep 25, 2021 at 4:20

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