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First of all let me explain my situation a little bit.

I am writing my masters thesis in theoretical quantum field theory and have a very bad contact with my promoter. I see him once every few weeks and he doesn't have any concrete feedback. (40 written pages have been lying on his desk for months without any feedback on them) There is a PhD student that is helping me but our ideas are not in line and all he does is give negative feedback up to the point where I cannot value it anymore (it feels personal instead of professional)

This situation is becoming rather desperate since I was hoping for a PhD in physics but I have no recommendation letters from my promoter which ruins much of my chances...

I have talked to another professor at the faculty and they tell me that that they know him and that it doesn't really surprise him, but this does not help me. That same professor might be willing to get me started in a PhD but I am afraid that he'll ask my current promoter how I work, and whatever he says, it will not be representative of how hard I work.

Last but not least, the deadline for my thesis is in a couple of months and I am yet to get some feedback on a crucial, very unorthodox step that I made. I motivated the step and anybody asking me will see that I thought about it for a very long time but still, it might be wrong. Can I get a total fail for my thesis if this is the case? And how does this influence my further career ?

I felt really confident at first for a PhD; I am very motivated and work a lot, but this whole situation is really taking away my academical drive.

Any tips and advice ?

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There are three ways to get your work reviewed by people other than your supervisor:

  • You've probably already done a related work survey. Look for other professors and PhD scholars who are doing or have done work that is very similar to yours. Contact these people by sending them emails and ask them to review your work. Don't send them a 40-page document. No body is going to review that. Send them a summary of your work with emphasis on the main idea. Then if they are interested, provide them with more details. If have done a really good work, someone might offer you a PhD opportunity.
  • Try to get your work published in some reputable journal, conference, or magazine. During the process of publication, your work will be reviewed. Of course, you need to do that before the deadline of your thesis submission. I do not study physics and so I cannot recommend any publication venue.
  • Ask your colleagues who are working in the same or similar field to review your work. You said there is one PhD student who reviewed your work. Remember to accept any constructive criticism and use it to your advantage. Try to find other people.

If some people expressed interest in your work, tell your supervisor and try to get him/her engaged in your project. Hopefully you'll get a recommendation letter from him/her at the end.

  • Thanks for your reply I can really use the advice right now... :( The best option for me feels like the first one since publishing is still far away and there are few other people at my university working on that topic apart form my promoter and that PhD student. I know of various professors outside my university that are researching the field but I feel like emailing them would mean "back-stabbing" my advisor. Furthermore I don't want to waste their precious time by asking them to review a thesis that they have no affiliation with. – user72193 Apr 14 '17 at 17:45
  • @gertian Having people from outside your university review your work is a common and encouraged practice. Just keep your advisor in the loop. If you want, you can ask him if it's OK to do that before sending any emails. Also, as I said, you have to send people a summary of your work (preferably fits in the email itself), not the whole thesis. – Hadi Brais Apr 14 '17 at 18:10
  • In my experience, getting a manuscript published in a journal is harder and takes longer than writing a master thesis. Having a publication in a decent journal will certainly help with applications for phd positions, but in my field you'd do the publication after you have submitted the master thesis because you are allowed only a limited amount of time for that. – Roland Apr 15 '17 at 8:41
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    @HadiBrais I followed up on your advice and gathered the courage to contact some professors from whom I know that they are actively researching the topic. One of them answered positive and is willing to read a small review. It has already been sent and I am awaiting his feedback. I'll keep you posted :) – user72193 Apr 16 '17 at 11:09
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    @HadiBrais, it all turned out very well for me :) I got very luck in the end... – user72193 Mar 7 '18 at 18:12

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