I've been working hard on research with my advisor, and he seems to be happy with my progress. I would like to get an RA position next semester.

Should I tell my advisor that I'm going to cut back a bit on my research time in order to encourage him to give me an official RA position? I've been putting in a lot of time because I want to impress him, but I also have TA responsibilities to deal with, and I've been feeling worn out.

Edit: Perhaps a more positive framing: This is my first year, and I feel like the pace I've set for myself is not sustainable in the long run. I want to cut back slightly on the average number of research hours I'm putting in each week. Should I be honest with my advisor about this, in hopes that it will strengthen my case for funding, or should I just slow down a bit without saying anything?

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    Your framing is confusing to me. Are you trying to say something like "Professor, I can't keep up doing 20 hours of TA, taking my own classes and trying to do research, therefore I'm going to limit myself to X hours of research per day?" Mar 14, 2022 at 3:16
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    @Yachsut, my suggestion after reading your edit is that you get serious about writing grants for yourself. If what you want is funding that allows you to exclusively work on your research, it isn't a matter of your advisor giving that to you, it is something you win by way of a fellowship or a grant. Tell your advisor you want to apply for grants and ask for support in finding them and editing your proposals.
    – psithurism
    Mar 14, 2022 at 15:45

3 Answers 3


This seems to me a very very very bad idea. Think about it this way: What is your response going to be if the professor says: "You feel you can't keep up and need to spent less time on research? OK". What will the professor "lose" and what will you lose when (s)he says that? In short, your bargaining power is not in the amount of time you spent doing research.

The best case scenario I can come up with is that your professor responds "Awww, how cute. A student who tries to negotiate for the very first time. I will spent some time tutoring her/him on how to do that." Most of the professors I know would be (mildly) annoyed, and just say no. However, most of the professors I know do take career development of their PhD students very seriously, and if you just discuss your concerns with them, would be very willing to work with you and see if a solution can be found.

Response to your edit:

I would recommend discussing this openly with your advisor. A dissertation is more like a marathon than a sprint, so you should pace yourself. Helping with things like time management and finding a work tempo that is sustainable is also part of a advisors job. Not all advisors are equally good at it, but it is a legitimate topic to discuss with your advisor. Even the best advisor cannot read your mind. So if there is something bothering you, then you need to tell them. Otherwise, the advisor won't know, and thus cannot help you.


I would just be upfront and ask for what you want. Ask if he is able to support you on an RA and tell him the reasons why you would prefer it to a TA position. Being passive aggressive is rarely well received, and this isn't much of a threat anyway as you will only be hurting yourself by focusing less on your own research.

Keep in mind as well that being an RA means that you will be working on a project for your advisor that is not necessarily your own, amounting to a similar amount of time as a TA position. So while it has advantages, you may not end up feeling like you are working less than you are now.


I suggest to tell him that the combination of TA and research is very heavy, and although you would prefer to do research you have these TA duties and ask him for advice/what your options are. This gives him the option of proposing an RA position is if he is willing and able to do so.

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