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Supervisor troubles

  • 22-10-2012 5:39pm
    #1
    Registered Users Posts: 9 ✭✭✭ Infinitejester


    [MOD]OK folks, we've had quite a few threads recently on the above subject. So, I'm going to sticky this particular one and would ask that people refrain from starting new threads on the same subject. We'll keep this one thread for the discussion of issues with supervisors, so that all the advice (which is often repeated across multiple threads) can be kept in one place.

    I would however ask that everyone reads this before posting here.

    Ta.[/MOD]


    I started my phd a year ago and I'm having real trouble with my supervisor. Basically he is never around, he left me to sit in an office for the first 6 months with no real idea what was going on and just told me to "read the literature". I never hear from him and anything I've asked for help with he has basically said that I should know it already and tears me apart.

    I feel like he has little to no respect for me. I also feel like the lack of guidance/support/interest from him has resulted in me being a bit behind with me work. I'm not doing too bad but I know it could be a lot better. When I give him something to correct he tears it apart and accuses me of knowing nothing, despite the fact that it is often not something I've had to do before.

    I feel out of my depth and like I'm not cut out for this. I don't know if this is as a result of his attitude or because I'm just not good enough. I'm thinking about leaving.

    Does anybody have any advice regarding this? Are most supervisors like this?!


Comments

  • Registered Users Posts: 983 ✭✭✭ gutenberg


    [MOD]OK folks, we've had quite a few threads recently on the above subject. So, I'm going to sticky this particular one and would ask that people refrain from starting new threads on the same subject. We'll keep this one thread for the discussion of issues with supervisors, so that all the advice (which is often repeated across multiple threads) can be kept in one place.

    I would however ask that everyone reads this before posting here.

    Ta.[/MOD]


    I started my phd a year ago and I'm having real trouble with my supervisor. Basically he is never around, he left me to sit in an office for the first 6 months with no real idea what was going on and just told me to "read the literature". I never hear from him and anything I've asked for help with he has basically said that I should know it already and tears me apart.

    I feel like he has little to no respect for me. I also feel like the lack of guidance/support/interest from him has resulted in me being a bit behind with me work. I'm not doing too bad but I know it could be a lot better. When I give him something to correct he tears it apart and accuses me of knowing nothing, despite the fact that it is often not something I've had to do before.

    I feel out of my depth and like I'm not cut out for this. I don't know if this is as a result of his attitude or because I'm just not good enough. I'm thinking about leaving.

    Does anybody have any advice regarding this? Are most supervisors like this?!

    No, not all supervisors are like this, believe me. Have you been appointed an advisor of some kind, or a secondary supervisor? Perhaps you could approach them to ask for advice. Or if not, then maybe another member of staff that you trust?

    If he is being overly personal in his tearing you apart then keep a record of those things, in case you should ever need to make a formal complaint, or make a case for switching supervisors. Perhaps a (very informal) chat with the head of the department or the director of graduate studies might be in order, just to make them aware that there are issues? They see problems like this all the time.

    One thing to consider, and I hope you don't take this the wrong way, is to really look at what he's criticising you for and see if there actually is a problem. There may not be at all (and you certainly sound very conscientious so I'm confident you're doing ok), but nevertheless make sure that you've got your back covered, so to speak, so that he can't attack you. Is your PhD in a different area to what you've done before? Perhaps you do need to do some supplementary reading. Like I said, the problem may not be you at all, but I've seen some students who have really struggled with the independence of the PhD, especially if it's a subject new to them, and they expected far too much hand-holding from their supervisor.

    If all else fails, don't be afraid to ask to switch if you really aren't getting along. It's your PhD after all! :)


  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 30,202 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Faith


    Can someone help me understand what the role of a supervisor at Masters level is? In my university, we were provided with outlines of each supervisor's interests at the start of the year and that's how we chose who to work with. My supervisor is currently trying to force my project in the direction he wants it to go in, rather than the direction I chose, and is accusing me of not wanting to do extra work when actually he wants me to start all over again. From the beginning, he has been very distant and uninterested. Now we have 6 weeks of testing time left, and he wants me to re-do my method from the ground up, which will waste at least another week or two. I've got all my exams and everything in this time too. Basically, he wants me to do a PhD level project (currently more difficult than projects actual PhD students are working on), he wants to make it even more complicated, and all he's interested in is getting it published.

    I feel like his role is to guide and support me, not bully me, pile work on and demand a level much higher than I can reasonably provide. But should I just do what he says and start from scratch, or stick with my (almost perfect) current method?


  • Registered Users Posts: 686 ✭✭✭ avalon68


    Faith wrote: »
    Can someone help me understand what the role of a supervisor at Masters level is? In my university, we were provided with outlines of each supervisor's interests at the start of the year and that's how we chose who to work with. My supervisor is currently trying to force my project in the direction he wants it to go in, rather than the direction I chose, and is accusing me of not wanting to do extra work when actually he wants me to start all over again. From the beginning, he has been very distant and uninterested. Now we have 6 weeks of testing time left, and he wants me to re-do my method from the ground up, which will waste at least another week or two. I've got all my exams and everything in this time too. Basically, he wants me to do a PhD level project (currently more difficult than projects actual PhD students are working on), he wants to make it even more complicated, and all he's interested in is getting it published.

    I feel like his role is to guide and support me, not bully me, pile work on and demand a level much higher than I can reasonably provide. But should I just do what he says and start from scratch, or stick with my (almost perfect) current method?

    The goal of any research should be to get it published - it is your opinion that your method is perfect - clearly your supervisor disagrees with this assessment. Also, his role is partly to guide and support you - but primarily his role is to direct your research so that you leave with publishable results. If nothing gets published, the study is effectively a waste of resources.


  • Registered Users Posts: 632 ✭✭✭ Viva La Gloria


    My dissertation supervisor (MSc dissertation) is from a finance background, despite my project being entirely qualitative based. I really don't think they get where I'm coming from at all, they've told me that I need to be doing at least 20 in-depth interviews and they want to see the exact questions I'll be asking the interviewees. I didn't think that made sense coming from an interprevist research philosophy, so I asked my Research Methods lecturer who is a qualitative researcher. He said that he couldn't even get over why they had assigned me to someone from a finance background in the first place; he also said that what they were saying was based completely on a positivist's perspective and not to consider it.

    I know the role of the supervisor isn't to hold your hand through it, but what's the point in having someone who's not even on the same page as you when it comes to the research methodology? Particularly when they're the first marker :confused:


  • Registered Users Posts: 42 ✭✭✭ missdisco


    I have a lot of problems with my supervisor and now i'm questioning the suitability of my uni. Has anyone ever transferred a phd from one uni to another? I'm getting no support, and i feel like i'm being pressured to drop out.


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  • Registered Users Posts: 3,816 ✭✭✭ bbk


    Yeah, it seems supervisors is where things can go wrong at University.

    When doing undergrad, at least you have a few classes a week and if one is bad then more people are in the same boat. Going solo can have huge problems.

    My supervisor is a guy who gave me assignment feedback saying it was very good with some minor corrections required but then he gave me a mark 7 above a fail with big problems cited. We all knew he was moody and had some swings of trustworthiness but well, I got stung.

    Now he is my MSc supervisor and the reader is a guy who bullied me when during an assessment in front of the class. It was a one to one demo of some software work which took place in the classroom. As it turned out, I was getting very ill very quickly from some virus and couldn’t defend myself when he got super critical over a part of the work. Bad combo that day and now a very worrying combo as both the people who will mark my final project will be people who have wronged me. :(


  • Registered Users Posts: 632 ✭✭✭ Viva La Gloria


    bbk wrote: »
    Yeah, it seems supervisors is where things can go wrong at University.

    When doing undergrad, at least you have a few classes a week and if one is bad then more people are in the same boat. Going solo can have huge problems.

    My supervisor is a guy who gave me assignment feedback saying it was very good with some minor corrections required but then he gave me a mark 7 above a fail with big problems cited. We all knew he was moody and had some swings of trustworthiness but well, I got stung.

    Now he is my MSc supervisor and the reader is a guy who bullied me when during an assessment in front of the class. It was a one to one demo of some software work which took place in the classroom. As it turned out, I was getting very ill very quickly from some virus and couldn’t defend myself when he got super critical over a part of the work. Bad combo that day and now a very worrying combo as both the people who will mark my final project will be people who have wronged me. :(

    I don't envy you one bit. My MSc supervisor was from a completely different research background and did not help me at all. In fact, I used to feel physically sick whenever I saw her because we just didn't get on at all and she was of no help to me whatsoever. She was looking at my dissertation from a quantitative perspective instead of qualitative one, upon which the methodology was based. She even used to say things to me like 'Just make sure you get to the point. I have a short attention span. Don't give me 50 pages of text for your analysis chapter. Use graphs and charts.' I was so worried, because I knew this was what I was up against. Luckily my programme director is the nicest person in the world and offered to second mark it for me because he knew the predicament I was in and how worried I was about her own personal opinion affecting my grade.

    Are both of your readers from the background you're studying? Because if that's the case then surely they will be objective and mark it fairly? If you're really that concerned about it I'd speak to your programme director too and see if you can get the second marker changed?


  • Registered Users Posts: 3,816 ✭✭✭ bbk


    I don't envy you one bit. My MSc supervisor was from a completely different research background and did not help me at all. In fact, I used to feel physically sick whenever I saw her because we just didn't get on at all and she was of no help to me whatsoever. She was looking at my dissertation from a quantitative perspective instead of qualitative one, upon which the methodology was based. She even used to say things to me like 'Just make sure you get to the point. I have a short attention span. Don't give me 50 pages of text for your analysis chapter. Use graphs and charts.' I was so worried, because I knew this was what I was up against. Luckily my programme director is the nicest person in the world and offered to second mark it for me because he knew the predicament I was in and how worried I was about her own personal opinion affecting my grade.

    Are both of your readers from the background you're studying? Because if that's the case then surely they will be objective and mark it fairly? If you're really that concerned about it I'd speak to your programme director too and see if you can get the second marker changed?

    That was a very tough situation for you to be in. Glad it got sorted with the programme leader.

    For me, yeah both people have a background in the project area but the reader is the programme leader. Ill be grand though, I generally cause a whirlwind of formal complaints and student union involvement if I get treated badly. A pity I was ill when all the stuff I mentioned happened.

    Main thing I guess, keep the head down and do it for yourself. General I know but it works.


  • Registered Users Posts: 632 ✭✭✭ Viva La Gloria


    bbk wrote: »
    That was a very tough situation for you to be in. Glad it got sorted with the programme leader.

    For me, yeah both people have a background in the project area but the reader is the programme leader. Ill be grand though, I generally cause a whirlwind of formal complaints and student union involvement if I get treated badly. A pity I was ill when all the stuff I mentioned happened.

    Main thing I guess, keep the head down and do it for yourself. General I know but it works.

    Ah ok, so then you're sort of stuck with what you have really =/

    That's actually what I did. I was sitting there for so long getting myself worked up over it and saying 'I really want a first in this so much.' But then I realised that I'd be far happier producing a piece of work that I was truly happy with, never mind what my supervisor thought of it. What I thought of it was more important.

    Although if I don't get a first I'll probably appeal it :P


  • Registered Users Posts: 34 ✭✭✭ ATTY


    Hi, I don't know if anyone really looks at this thread anymore but I'd prefer to put my problem in here than in a new thread.
    It's related to my supervisors and my external for my viva.

    I'm in absolute bits about this and getting really upset and not sure what to do. I have just missed a deadline to appoint my external which could have an impact on me graduating this year. My supervisors want me to do all the research into finding an extern, they have turned down a few of my suggestions and will only accept people where I can contact their former PhD students or someone who knows them well. The two they have approached are too busy to do it before September.

    I'm getting both upset and angry at them because this is meant to be thier responsibility, I don't mind helping out but I'm having trouble finding anyone and my writing up is pretty much on hold because I'm so worried and all my time is spent trying to find someone they will be happy with. I'm afraid if I tell them how I really feel know I'll get extremely angry at them and cause problems with our relationship. Initially there was a mentoring supervisor and I was thinking of going to him. Also I could go to the head of school informally because I know him quite well.

    I don't want to cause problems for anyone but is it unreasonable for me to expect that they will do their job.

    Anyone got any suggestions?

    Thanks


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  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 4,351 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Tree


    First off, missing deadlines isn't always a major problem, some registry deadlines are softer than others. The main reason for the extern deadline to be so early is so they can be contacted and will also have time to read your thesis before the final exam (which needs to be early enough so you can do corrections before an immovable registry date).

    What happens if you wait till September for the examiners your bosses have selected?

    For the appointment of my external, my supervisors invited my input, but strictly speaking it was their decision in the end. Also, my external wasn't available to examine me to make a sooner graduation date, but at least it's out of the way, and it doesnt matter to me.

    Talk to your bosses about what happens if you miss the deadline, or what happens if you viva in september. If you're still unhappy, talk to the mentoring supervisor, they're meant to be able to give you independant advice.


  • Registered Users Posts: 34 ✭✭✭ ATTY


    Thanks for your reply Tree. I don't think missing this deadline will matter too much, it's related to when the academic council meet, it takes two months for the extern to be approved. The problem is that it's already been going on for a couple of months and without a solid deadline my supervisor is likely to keep it on the long finger and push the responsibility on to me. He's lazy this way and hates admin and I've already had delays because of this.

    I'd prefer not to wait until September as a lot of postgrads who are applying for jobs in academia are finding that they are not being short listed because they have not graduated. A friend of mine got a lecturing job in August and when they asked for his graduation cert he told them that he wouldn't have it for a few weeks. They then withdrew the job offer because he hadn't graduated before the deadline of the job advert, it didn't matter that he had done his viva and corrections, they explained that he should never have been short listed as their policy was having graduated with a PhD as first choice.

    My big problem is how much this is distracting me from getting my final draft completed. I am hoping to have this done by Easter.

    I'm a bit calmer now, so hopefully I can sort it out without getting too angry.


  • Moderators, Science, Health & Environment Moderators Posts: 4,351 Mod ✭✭✭✭ Tree


    I'm guessing your PhD isn't in a scientific discipline then, any lecturing jobs would be years after you got parchment but you can accumulate experience in the meantime. Any postdoc positions wouldn't require parchment in hand, but a minimum of thesis submission with a known viva date.

    I'd definitely talk to your boss.


  • Registered Users Posts: 5 ✭✭✭ tuamstar


    Hi Atty,

    First of all congratulations on a finished piece of work!
    I hope you're sorted by now and I reckon the only piece of advice I can give you is to stay cool, calm and collected!

    Do you not have any young colleagues in the department who could give you the names of a few friends to be used as an external?

    Don't be mad as you supervisor, try to see it as a test and seek help from young assistant/associate professors who can give you a hand!

    Good luck

    Tuamstar


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