What methods could you recommend for attaining assistance when writing a master's thesis, in the particular case when one feels uncomfortable seeking any more help from the advisor, because of his own anxiety and the advisor's personality and busyness?

Is there an option available to get independent help? How would one go about finding help so that he can get the thesis finished?

  • This might help: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/1686/…
    – adipro
    Apr 10 '14 at 12:44
  • You should really specify what kind of trouble it is you'd like help. Is it focusing your subject? Formulating questions? Finding your way through the literature? Setting up an experiment properly? Depending on the answer to that, the relevant answers might differ.
    – einpoklum
    Jul 6 '16 at 13:33

At the end of the day, your advisor is the one who needs to accept your thesis. Seeking help from others may be useful for some types of questions, but you'll definitely want his feedback during the process to make sure you're developing the thesis to his standards.


Your advisors are the ones you should seek advice from, on how to write the thesis, and on fundamental research skills such as avoiding plagiarism.

If you feel uncomfortable about approaching your advisors / supervisors, you've got two options.

Either work out how to get comfortable approaching them.

Or get new advisors.

  • It's absolutely not the case that you should only expect help from your advisor(s). In research, we often collaborate and consult multiple people about our work, and provide our opinions to others. Of course, OP should not try to have others do her work for her.
    – einpoklum
    Jul 6 '16 at 13:31

I agree with the others that bypassing the advisor is not a helpful strategy.

But, you should also understand that the point of this exercise (the M.S.) is not to just end up with a finished thesis.

It's to show that the student has developed the mathematical/scientific/technical and professional maturity to produce a piece of M.S.-level independent work, in spite of any personal and interpersonal problems that come up.

If the student has a problem with depression, he should seek help from a mental health professional. If the student has a significant interpersonal problem with his advisor, he can ask for help from the person at the university who is in charge of graduate studies. If the student has a problem with writing, he can ask for help from the writing center.

But ultimately, it's up to the student to get things moving. Having someone "walk him through it step by step so that he can get finished" is probably missing the point.

  • 1
    I agree very much with this. In fact, if someone needs to be walked "step by step" through a master's thesis, then they don't deserve to get the master's degree, as they have not actually acquired those skills such a degree signals. Apr 10 '14 at 7:31

If there are problems approaching the advisor for help, I would suggest talking to the PhD students and/or postdocs who work in the same group as the advisor. They might be able to help. It would also be helpful talking to other students who are supervised by the same advisor. They might not be able to help, but at least you feel that you are not alone.

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