I am a master's student in physics currently writing my master's thesis. I have been working for quite a while on this thesis because of various issues during the last 2 years.

I handed in my draft to my unofficial supervisor (junior research group leader). She said I need to rewrite parts of my results and discussion. I feel that she gave up on me. She gave me one last chance to deliver a last draft of my thesis. My self-confidence is not high in terms of writing because she said nothing positive in her feedback. I am worrying about my grade even she is not responsible for that.

When I get a bad grade, would that probably kill my chances to continue with a PhD?

I want to change my research area after my master's. I welcome any other advice. I doubt every word I write and this makes progress very slow.

3 Answers 3


You seem to be over thinking it and applying negative connotations where none is intended. That is, provided that her comments were constructive in that she let you know of necessary changes that would improve the thesis.

Not giving positive reinforcement is, perhaps, for a junior person not yet accomplished in giving feedback, just her shortcoming. If she focused on what you need to do, she might not have ever considered what you have already done that has value. That is her fault, not yours. As you say, the grade won't come from her.

Make any changes that you agree should be made. How a bad grade would affect you depends on lots of things, even the location. Some places it would be much like any other grade. Other places more important.

You might seek advice from a more senior person who is responsible for the grade, but probably after a rewrite.

But you seem overly pessimistic. Do what you can. You are a student, not yet a professional. Some stumbling is natural. But how you recover is more important.

In some places changing research direction after a masters is easy, other less so, but if you have knowledge of research process in the field, then the specific direction is less important than with a radical change. Don't worry yet about that.


I would suggest trying not to read too much into her feedback. Sometimes, I give only what seems like "negative" feedback to really good work. It is just natural for me to focus on what could be improved, because I'm trying to help students make their work even better. It is just my way of doing things, though I realise it might be discouraging for students. So, I'm trying not to forget to also point out all that I like about their work.

As for continuing with a PhD, that is tough to say without more context. In the fields/countries I know best, it is professors who are making decisions, and they don't usually look at grades. From my experience, they would prefer to consider a recommendation over a generic application. And if it is a cold application, they would rely on the prestige of your previous institution to decide on an interview. If you get to the interview stage, you would likely need to present your work, so your thesis could become important, but not so much the grade itself.


I have recently submitted and received grades on a Master's level dissertation, so I may be able to offer some reassurance. Whilst in the writing stage, I received notes on which areas needed development. This is a normal part of the writing process, and it's very common to need several drafts before you submit the final version.

In terms of PhD study, it depends on the institution as sometimes as they consider personal circumstances. While professors will mostly look at the quality of your proposal and recommendations, there are usually specified entry requirements. It's best too compile a list of institutions which could support your proposed research and then look at the entry requirements. In the United Kingdom, the entry requirements for PhD/DPhil level study vary from one institution to another. For example, a PhD from the University of Manchester often involves overall entry requirements in addition to specified average grades for each module, including the Postgraduate Dissertation. As a result, any module grade lower than this average would most likely lead to a rejection. Whereas, King's College, the University of London, will often specify the entry requirements as being the overall grade. However, the majority of institutions will request to see a sample of work which could include the Postgraduate Dissertation. Overall, it very much depends on the institution as some, as shown in my example, will not consider module grades below a certain average.

I appreciate that it could be different for your proposed country of study, but you didn't specify which country you would like to study within in the future. I hope this has been useful for you. Best of luck.

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