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Which way is good to communicate or deal with my advisor about research issues? writing an email or talking directly with my professor? What would you do if your professor is busy to check your email and also to talk with you in person? Is there any other option to communicate with my professor about the problem easily and politely?

I am a new PhD student and have some issues to deal with my advisor. So my advisor do not respond to my emails I sent him previously till today. I tried also to talk with him in person but he said that he doesn't have time to talk now. What should I do? how long do I have to wait for his respond? What does it mean when a professor is not willing to respond to his student email?

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  • How long did you wait? Commented Jun 24, 2016 at 15:02
  • @CaptainEmacs almost two weeks,do I have to wait till he reply and say something? But we do not know when he will say something.
    – Meti
    Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 5:47
  • How about others in the group? Profs can be busy. Prepare the meeting well, so, when you have the meeting, you have a clear structure what you want to talk about and what you want to get out of the meeting. This way, when you meet, the prof will see a meeting with you as profitable and productive and not be reluctant to meet in the future (if that's what it is). Commented Jun 25, 2016 at 10:47
  • @ captain Emacs I don't think there is a better person in the group to explain about my issues. By the way I tried to ask one of them to help me but they know nothing about it. They do not even have time for greetings either. So how can I ask them again for help. It's not also my first time to talk with my advisor about the issue. Every time I go to talk with him it ended up shortly with out asking the questions I prepared. Currently, I am not in a good relationship with my advisor and I don't know how I can fix it. Any suggestions are welcome
    – Meti
    Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 14:54
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    you are not in a good relationship with the advisor? This is a red flag. He may have a "hands off" attitude and expect you to provide results, and, when that does not happen, lose interest. Or else, he is in a busy phase. However, you say you are a new PhD student. Perhaps it may be a good idea to probe discreetly whether there are alternative advisors you could change to. Commented Jun 26, 2016 at 17:41

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While your post contains quite a few questions, the best answer for the question "How Do I Communicate With An Advisor Politely?" is very closely related to communicating with a boss in any professional situation. Do your best to be polite, yet firm. Email is a good way to contact him if you can not meet him in person, and a reasonable amount of time to wait for a response is anywhere between 24 hours and 3 days. Any longer than this can prove troublesome for a student (you). If he/she does not answer emails within 3 days, I believe you are well within your rights as a student to POLITELY yet firmly ask the question again or visit his/her office. In short, do your best to manage this relationship as you would manage any other professional relationship, while also making sure your needs are met in a timely manner.

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Ideally, you should request a meeting if you have a significant issue which could impact your studies to discuss your concerns, or alternatively, utilise their drop-in office hours.

You should be polite and use professional language. I believe there are resources online which provide templates for emailing professors. For example, you can google "template emails to university professors" to gain insight into the communication style. When emailing professors, you can incorporate the following key phrases:

• "I hope you are doing well. I am contacting you as I would like to arrange a meeting with you this week as I am having issues with [blank] which is causing [blank]." • "Please let me know when is most convenient for you " • "I will be available on [blank] from [blank] to [blank]. Please let me if you have any availability for this period." • "Thank you for your assistance in this matter."

Personally, I believe some issues are easier to explain during a meeting. However, you are the best judge on whether it can be dealt with by email or meeting.

You are also able to request appointments in various formats:

  • Online, such as Teams or Zoom.
  • face-to-face meeting

Please remember that professors also have business hours for their responses in addition to other duties, such as grading papers, so you need to be patient and respectful.

If you are having persistent significant problems with your supervisor then most universities have a complaints process to resolve issues between you and your supervisor. For example, I am aware that one of my previous universities have a "no questions asked" policy in which you could make a request to change your PhD or dissertation supervisor without any prejudice or complaints process. Therefore, you could make a request change your supervisor if you feel your supervisor is not responsive enough regardless of the reason behind it. However, it could only be used once before you would need to provide reasons behind the change.

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