I'm a third year PhD student. I'm not getting much guidance from my adviser. We only meet once a month, and he keeps giving the same general advice. As a consequence of that, we have had to cancel one project since I have no motivation at all for that project.

Now having the new project, things are getting the same. I'm worried about my progress as some of my lab mates are about to graduate. What should I do? I realized my responsibility in driving the project by myself, but most of the time my idea are discarded. Recently when I showed my result, he claims that's garbage without any reasons. What should I do? I'm really thinking of dropping out if situation is not getting better.

  • 8
    "most of the time my ideas are discarded". That in itself is not a sign of a problem, as long as reasons are given, and something is learnt from them. We spend most of our time as researchers coming up with useless ideas. Having said that, saying that results are "garbage" is not useful without explaining why.
    – Suresh
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 0:33
  • 2
    possible duplicate of Advisor isn't advising Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 7:51
  • @Suresh "We spend most of our time as researchers coming up with useless ideas". very nice statement!
    – seteropere
    Commented Mar 2, 2013 at 19:13

4 Answers 4


"we have had to cancel one project since I have no motivation at all for that project". What exactly is the relation between having a meeting once a month and not being motivated? This to me sounds more like an excuse rather than a good enough reason.

In the third year of your Phd having one meeting a month is not too bad. Your supervisor is assuming that you know your way and at this stage you should be left to figure it out yourself rather than him spoon feeding you. Of course he will still have strong opinions and might say what you have done is not the right way. It might be that he is busy/not happy with you/thinks he has mentioned to you before how you should do it and you are not listening or that you have a problem in your relation that you don't even know of. If for instance you are just not motivated the way you described its not unnatural for your supervisor to not be so happy with you.

Next time you meet him once he rejects your idea ask him for suggestions and guidance on what to do. Ask politely and genuinely, and if he is not forth coming explain that you need help to figure it out. If he says your results are garbage ask him given his freaking awesome powers and knowledge how he would have done the work differently. He is only human and sometimes complementing somebody can go a long way. At all costs try to be more motivated and don't exhibit the behavior you described in the first part of your message. That's not going to do you any good and might be the root cause of all of this pain.

I don't see why you should drop out after investing so much time and effort. It is in the interest of both of you to sort out the situation and no PhD advisor would like to see someone dropping out after three years (at least for their selfish interests).


I'm worried about my progress as some of my lab mates are about to graduate.

I'm really thinking of dropping out if situation is not getting better.

Before you pull the nuclear trigger and drop out, I strongly suggest that you take some time to figure out when you want to graduate and what you have to do to accomplish that goal. Be very specific (e.g., "I will prepare the following work for conference X, which has a submission deadline of Y;" "I will be ready to propose to my committee on Z"). Once you put this on paper, you can go to your advisor and ask him to review it with you, and to make suggestions or provide other guidance. If you can't get your advisor to agree to the plan, at the very least go to another professor (possibly the ombudsman, if there is one) and talk over the plan with him/her. You need something concrete or you could linger forever.

I was lucky in that my advisor forced me to come up with a plan early on (within the first year of working with her), and we came to an agreement on what that plan was going to be. The proposal stage of your eventual PhD work is a similar agreement with your committee. I had a tacit agreement from my advisor that if I met all the goals, I'd be ready to graduate, and I worked hard to make all the deadlines I had set. That in itself was a big motivation, and it worked out.

As far as your projects go, you must be personally invested in getting them done. That's one of the driving factors in every Ph.D, and you (hopefully) have an intellectual desire to work on the project, so I suggest trying to get into the mindset that you really want to find the answer to the questions posed in the project. That's the fun part of being a scientist, after all! :)


If you are want to have this degree You have to motivate you by yourself, too. Just wait hints from supervisor is not enough. You have to work in your research idea and you can request a bit your supervisor by diplomatic way. You write to him email every week and can give to him update reports, what you doing and how is your progress. Of course, you will nee hints. But I must have some own idea about your future thesis and you better have to work on this idea. You can try write paper to conferences. Conference reviewer evaluation is always good impact to researcher. If just you want you can find way and your method how you can handle situation. Just give to your self some time. And please think, what is important for you! If PhD is important you have to move... You must work by yourself, first...


Welcome to the PhD world...

Where the advisers have little time for you and your ideas are always bad...

... Until you realize that the PhD is a learning process as well! Learning how to do research, how to be independent, how to have integrity and how to push the boundaries of science by a tiny delta...

In the course of those 3 years I am sure you have learned a lot and have become critic about what you do and what others do as well. That is the first step to understand your work was not all in vain!

Find a hint from your adviser, something he inspires you to do and something you think he is right about! (there has to be something, after-all he is still your adviser after 3 years...). Use that hint as inspiration (although you don't love the muse) and work on something you believe is good. Your adviser is not the only reviewer of your work, scientific community (those papers we submit) are also an evaluation of our work.

Get inspired from the adviser, evaluate your work through scientific community and have confidence.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .