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I'm starting my master's thesis work with a new professor and had a really bad meeting with them recently. They asked me questions I am supposed to be able to answer, but I was so stressed I couldn't think. I couldn't write stuff on the board. It was just a mess.

He said some things that made me feel pretty bad about myself and I really don't want that to happen again in the next meeting. Could someone please share their ways on how they prepare for research meetings they are nervous for?

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    What did he say? Were his questions related to your research topic or you personally? Did he offend you or say anything that is questionable? – Michael Sep 11 '17 at 14:22
  • @Michael His questions were all research related and he did not say anything that attacked my character personally. The comments were all about "you should know this AlgebraWoes", "we are so far from being able to do xyz if you cant do zyx" etc. It made me feel bad because I let him and myself down by not being able to perform well. The comments were well deserved. I just need to find a way to...better prepare myself – AlgebraWoes Sep 11 '17 at 14:39
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It sounds like you're a new graduate student, and that you clearly care about performing well in your program. You stumbled, and you've accepted responsibility and looking for ways to correct the problem. That's great, and suggests that you will end up doing very well in your program. As a master's student, you're not expected to be able to work completely independently, and your professors will likely be happy to help you navigate your program (they certainly should). The key is to ask for help early and often. I would consider scheduling an appointment with my adviser, telling them exactly what you've said here, and asking them for advice on how to prepare for meetings, and perhaps even advice on how to structure your independent learning so that you're learning the specific techniques/concepts that want you to know at each stage. Every adviser is different, so the best advice you can get will come directly from them. It may be intimidating to ask for help, but it is completely appropriate at this stage in your graduate education.

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Personally, the best way to handle a situation like that is to sit and listen. Then afterwards reflect upon what your adviser has said so that you can better prepare for your next meeting. I have had plenty of meetings where I went in feeling confident and then left feeling like crap.

If you are able to, I would send an email with a list of topics you would like to cover in your meeting. If he doesn't respond, then focus on that list. If he respond, then adjust accordingly. Like-wise, if he doesn't respond, but then goes into the meeting like he hasn't read the email, I would bring up how there's a lack of communication and that you can't do your research if communication is going to be limited to just these meetings.

Perhaps it's just his attitude and demeanor that makes you feel uncomfortable and unable to complete your work - in which case, you might want to consider finding another professor to finish your thesis under.

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  • Michael, thank you for your Answer. It was very informative and I will be taking your advice to heart in the coming week as I prepare for my next meeting. – AlgebraWoes Sep 11 '17 at 17:45

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