I am a PhD student. However I published more top-ranked journal articles than my supervisors within a 3 year period of time. As I am becoming more and more experienced, I feel uncomfortable whenever I talk to my supervisor for their comments on my PhD thesis. The comments are not penetrating and they do not seem to understand. It is hard for me to take their advice as I do not trust them enough academically. I told them I am not going to win a Nobel prize and I just want to finish my PhD to move on with my life, not a piece that I will be truly proud. Should I express my concerns to my supervisors openly by saying I am not comfortable with their advice, or what should I do with it? They are nice people but academically speaking, not strong enough.

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    I assume that, at least as a group, your supervisors have supervised (and completed) more PhD theses than yourself. That experience may count for something, even if you don't believe that they can compare to yourself academically.
    – Ian_Fin
    Aug 9, 2016 at 14:07
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    Also keep in mind that the people who come to examine your thesis may be similar to your supervisors. If you can't convince your supervisors that it's ready, how can you be so sure that you'll convince them?
    – Ian_Fin
    Aug 9, 2016 at 14:09
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    If your supervisors cannot understand your thesis it may need more work to make it clearer. Can you find out exactly what they are not understanding? Aug 9, 2016 at 14:49
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    Ay, caramba. You already told your advisors that "I just a finished phd to move on with my life, not a piece that I will be truly proud", so, at the very least, telling them that you are "not conformable with their advice" shouldn't be too shocking for them to hear, right?
    – Mad Jack
    Aug 9, 2016 at 15:44
  • "Should I express my concerns to my supervisors openly by saying I am not comfortable with their advice, or what should I do with it?" No matter how good you are, that is the worst thing that you can do. It is their job to give you advice, and it is your job to take it into consideration. Telling them that you will not take their advice because you are better than them shows a lot of arrogance to which they will not react well to. A little humility goes a long way.
    – user18244
    Aug 9, 2016 at 18:38

1 Answer 1


Towards the end of your PhD studies you should be the ultimate world expert on the narrow topic of your thesis. You should be familiar with all published related research, and have added new knowledge through your own research.

It is your responsibility to convey that knowledge, in your thesis, in a form that other researchers in your area can understand. It is essential to getting your PhD that you convey it in a form that the committee that evaluates your thesis can understand.

If the examining committee don't understand it, they should reject it. At the best, your writing is not good enough. At the worst, fuzziness in the thesis reflects actual muddled thinking and the research needs more work to sort that out.

Regardless of whether your supervisor will actually be on your examining committee, they are the best surrogate you have for testing your thesis. If your supervisor does not understand your thesis, it is not ready to submit.

Looking at the bigger picture, the smarter you are, the more academically advanced you are, the more of your time you are going to spend explaining things to people who know less than you and need more explanation than you would. Your thesis is a good place to work on those skills, with an expert audience who will give feedback.

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