Regarding my recent question about a traumatising situation, what advise you would provide for newbie/ novice/ beginner researchers to spot an ineligible or corrupt Ph.D. advisor? Especially when they have good recommendations (probably from other corrupt teachers), good number of their former students doing academic jobs, high demand to get into the lab (especially among people with incredibly high postgraduate exam scores), prolific number of publication?

UPDATE: to make this question not look like a list (based upon feedback), I have changed a large part of it, asking how a student will decide when they should absolutely abandone a supervisor when the entire system suggests not to. (Don't expect to find exceptions, many of the respectable chairs like university heads are member of active political parties, unemployment and competition is skyrocketing and students are pressing the stockholm button by all means)


I gone through following 'hints' that I didn't realised to be indicating something deeper.

  1. The supervisor/s do not notice you. You feel unheared.

  2. The supervisor/s say a lot of good or promising words that doesn't match their action.

  3. The supervisor/s set such terms and conditions so that you cannot change labs.

  4. The supervisor/s are paranoiacally concerned abot other researchers' ethics (or present oneself as if own work being stollen all the time). Or other signs of jealousy.

  5. You are not treated as equals but as subordinates. You are expected to get affection or even pity, but never a hardcore technical discussion with 2way and equality.


1 Answer 1


This isn't a comprehensive answer and also mentions the opposite side of the coin. Unfortunately I don't think it applies much to your situation.

I always recommend that students work with tenured advisors. It isn't that assistant professors or other untenured people are necessarily bad, but they have other obligations to their own work that can leave you without the help you need. Once they are tenured they are more likely to have the breathing room to work more effectively with students.

The other situation that I don't recommend is working with a high pressure, publication driven, more senior professor. Again, they are likely to be more interested in their own work than in helping you when you need it. Some people can deal with this, but many can't. But you want someone who has an interest in boosting the careers of their students, not just their own.

To find a good professor, ask around other doctoral students for their advice on who to work with and who to avoid. This is easier in some places like the US where most students can delay choosing a thesis advisor for a few years. You also get a chance to see them in classroom situations in such places. It is much harder in places (and some fields) where you need to choose an advisor as part of admissions. But a visit to the campus might be possible, and a quiet talk with some grad students about what to expect can be helpful.

One "green" flag is the situation in which there is an ongoing seminar for a few professors and their students that is field specific. A place to ask questions. Every week or two has been done some places. Ask about such things.

You might also look at the answers to this earlier question for building a positive experience.

  • 1
    I would also add the following: read what their students say about their supervisor(s) in their thesis. There is usually an acknowledgement page. It is easy to identify sentences that are sincere as opposed to obligatory acknowledgment sentences. May 27, 2022 at 0:58

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