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I had unofficially agreed to start working on my thesis during September, with no concrete date being mentioned.

However there are two factors which might delay this date:

  1. Me not being available due to travelling until the end of the month
  2. I don't feel confident about the programming task that has to be done during the thesis, so I want to take a little bit more time to work on some exercises

The problem is that in case that I go there, they might request me to sign for the official thesis registration, which then will impose the deadline when I have to be completely done with all the thesis stuff. I don't want to do this, before being confident that I can proceed easily with the programming, because otherwise the period that I will spend doing some extra programming exercises will be eating from timeslot limited with the deadline.

My question is, should I inform the adviser about these developments, or should I shut up until I come back (and use another 10 days to do some extra exercises) and then go to his office and talk about the official thesis start? Which situation would reflect best on me? I'm afraid I am causing too much communication overhead unnecessarily and somehow not respecting the time-frames I have agreed myself.

Reason to go to the advisor: I have already verbally promised that I will be around once September comes

Reason not to go: They may require me to sign the official thesis start.

  • 10 days in 3/4 years make a very small difference regarding learning. Doing some exercises is good, but you will only truly learn when you get to the real stuff. – Davidmh Sep 3 '14 at 13:59
7

As a rule of thumb, if you tell someone you'll be doing stuff with them at time X, and then change your mind, let them know!

More specifically, I would recommend an email such as:

"Dear Advisor,

we had planned for me to start my thesis in September, but because of REASONS I'll only be able to start on October. I apologize bla bla In the meantime, I'm planning to do EXERCISES. Please let me know if you have any other suggestions on how to prepare."

I don't see a point in telling this to your advisor in person anyway, and this should keep you safe from being made to sign stuff.

  • 1
    +1 Although this is good advice, the answer by the advisor could still be NO. – Alexandros Sep 3 '14 at 11:59
  • 1
    @Alexandros in which case, not showing up would have been worse. – Davidmh Sep 3 '14 at 13:57
4

This depends a lot on the personal stance of the advisor. Does he or she readily accommodate wishes by students, especially if they are comparably insignificant (delaying the start date by some 10 days) and seldom (it's not a perfect start to bring such an issue up right at the beginning of the thesis already, but if you don't come up with such requests every week, that may be fine).

I would definitely suggest contacting the advisor, as just ignoring him or her and disappearing for some 10 days does certainly not make a good initial impression.

As for the "danger" of being made to sign the start, I am not sure as to how realistic that is, given that you have concrete reasons (physical absence while travelling) for a (rather limited, less than two weeks!) delay - and I think it is unlikely the department or the advisor could be eager to force students that do not feel ready into starting their thesis (and thus provoke bad results). One issue might be that they have a certain rule concerning the maximum duration of preparation time before the official start, but if that is the case, that is all the more reason to talk to your advisor.

Beside just telling the advisor about your wish for a slight delay, I suggest you go see him or her in person, as just writing an e-mail may express a rather lackadaisical attitude towards your thesis. At least, you could write an e-mail to the advisor, utter your wish to slightly delay the official start, and express that you're ready for a meeting where you can discuss that in detail. That should make it clear that you're not willing to sign the official start yet.

One extra thing you might do to make your advisor extra-receptive about your request is being concrete about what you want to do in the additional ten days. Do not just mention "some extra programming exercises", but provide a concrete link or book title (or whatever else) that denotes a set of exercises you are planning to work through. Convey to your advisor that you really care, and that you don't just want 10 more days for idling, but that you have a concrete plan in mind, based upon which those 10 days would realistically make any difference concerning your current worries.


As a side-note, if we abstract your question to what you asked in the title, "Should I inform my thesis adviser about current situation?", the answer should invariably be an unanimous YES.

  • 5
    The last paragraph deserves an upvote on its own. – Davidmh Sep 3 '14 at 14:01

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