I am doing my Ph.D. in the Social Sciences and I am reflecting on how to optimize the workflow with my thesis committee (three advisors) in the implementation of feedback on chapters or papers. I understand this is a matter of negotiating between us. However, it would be useful for me to hear your experiences and how you perceive the pros and cons you see of each approach. For example, if I write a draft, I could:

  1. Send the draft to the first advisor, receive and implement their feedback, then send the edited draft to the second advisor, and so on. I imagine this would slow down the process considerably and would require many more rounds of editing.
  2. Send the draft to the first advisor, receive their feedback, then send the draft with the first advisor’s comments to the second advisor (if the first advisor agrees), and so on with the third. This would allow each committee member to have an idea of the other members’ feedback and possibly react to it directly (agreeing, disagreeing, building on it).
  3. Send the draft individually, at the same time, to the three committee members. I have heard of people doing that and then sending them an overview of everyone’s comments, and the way they intend to implement them, as if they were peer reviewers. This would allow me to send out the draft to the three advisors at the same time.

How did you manage this during your Ph.D., and which were the pros and cons of your approach?

  • Are the three advisors in the same department at the same institution?
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 10:54
  • No, two of them are in the same institution but in different departments, whereas one is in a different institution altogether. They do not interact in their day-to-day life.
    – userr
    Commented Jul 15, 2023 at 11:42

3 Answers 3


I think approach 3 is the only viable one -- that is, always sending your work to all three advisors at the same time -- and a regular schedule might help ("I'll send you some thesis work on the first Monday of every month, and if you give me some feedback I hope to incorporate it within a month or two").

With any of the other approaches, you risk any one advisor becoming the bottleneck on your writing process. Your advisors will be very busy people and they will often delay giving you feedback (unfortunately). By soliciting their advice in parallel, you should have at least one opinion to work on at any one time.

Don't worry about second-order "What does Advisor X think about Advisor Y's opinion?" questions. Your thesis is your thesis and it is ultimately your responsibility to produce the original knowledge it will contain. Your advisors' opinions of each other are their responsibilities, not yours.

(Indeed, in the unlikely and unfortunate event that they become hostile to each other over your thesis, that will be a further argument for asking them all "in parallel" for their feedback. If you are always working on Advisor X's feedback and then sending the results to Advisor Y, but they disagree, you are setting yourself up for repeated unpleasant interactions. Soliciting and receiving their feedback in parallel means you should be free to work on either, both, or neither comment, as you choose.)

  • Very helpful answer, thanks a lot!
    – userr
    Commented Jul 16, 2023 at 12:54

May I suggest option (4), which is really a variation of option (3):

  1. Use an online tool to write your drafts (Overleaf if you are using Latex, something like Sharepoint or Office 365 if you are using MS Word), and give all your advisors access. This way, people will always read the current version, and every decent tool like this has the option for multiple people to comment, and for everybody to see each other's comments in realtime. Note that you still need to inform your supervisors when you specifically want feedback and on what, even when everybody has access to your draft you should not assume that they are just constantly monitoring your writing.

Options 1 and 2 slow you down too much, and option 3 is honestly kind of obnoxious for your supervisors (knowing that they are likely spending time on feedback that two other people are also giving).

Going a bit beyond the actual scope of the question, with three supervisors in different places you really should think and discuss a lot more about your supervision process and the different roles of your three advisors, to the extent that this question may become redundant altogether. Since I am not in the social sciences I cannot say what typical supervision roles would be, but you and your team should be in agreement whose job it is to provide day-to-day coaching on writing, who watches the "big picture", who scrutinises your method, etc. etc. The danger with a large, disjoint supervision team and no explicit discussion of roles is that everybody assumes the other people are supervising you anyway, and that they can lean back.


I also have another option...

I work in the sciences with large teams, sending each version of a paper around all authors is generally infeasible, especially when working with new researchers who will need a lot of feedback and revisions to get the writing to a good standard.

So for each section there should be a single person who gives feedback on the early drafts. Only once this person is satisified that the paper is ok, do we send it round the other authors for feedback and/or approval. This cuts down the amount of work for everyone considerably.

For some students it's the same first person for all their chapters/papers, for others we split the work amongst the supervisory team, with each person taking the sections they have the strongest affinity for.

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