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What to do?

Sometimes supervisors, when in a meeting with other academics, will be more critical of work because it - basically - covers their a**.

If you think about it, when you're a supervisor in the future, you'll find there's a real temptation to critique your students work more aggressively when discussing it with other academics, because if you defend or exhort it, you become a student again. It's always easier to look good criticising than defending, and this is what many academics fall into when discussing student work. Often this is the 'moaning about students' culture that's endemic in academia, rather than a specific, genuine problem.

This often extends to review panels. It's inherently safer and more agreeable for the supervisor(s) to join the (often more senior) party slamming your work, rather than attempt to argue with their peers. The more senior party that glanced at your work will also often slam it because that's still a safer bet than them saying everything is fine, than having to explain to even more senior people why that PhD they said was fine after only glancing at it was not fine down the road.

The alternate perspective, that paints people in a better light, is that they're aiming to be supportive during the PhD but provide detailed critical feedback at reviews such that you can get some experience of what a harsh viva might be like. Probably the truth is somewhere between the two.

I'm not saying it's right, but if it doesn't directly affect your outcome, it is perhaps something better lived with in perspective than complained about.

Peer review services (humanities)

I'd think the general advice would be to submit it for, er, peer review.

You're second-guessing yourself a bit too much if you think you need a paid-for, additional peer review in advance. It surely can't be *so* bad you'll be laughed out of the park and forever damned to academic unemployability as a result of everyone word-of-mouth saying 'so-and-so wrote such a bad paper! lol!', right? :)

That might be the phobia in the back of your mind, but it's an irrational one. I think you're hitting a lot of dodgy links searching, because it's not really a done thing to have a paper peer-reviewed for money before having it peer reviewed by a venue, and good academics in general, as far as I know(!), are not signed up to provide 'pre-peer-review-for-money' services, meaning you're rightly skeptical of any service claiming to provide this. I mean, you're already basically offering the venue/journal free money by signing over the publication rights on your work. The whole purpose of what they do should be to be to provide an objective and useful peer review in return.

Professionally proofread, perhaps, if you're really skeptical about your ability to write and need someone to fix the typos, but (particularly if that's related to something like dyslexia), that's really something your institution/manager should be helping with.

I'm thinking the root of this is a confidence issue, not an issue with your (potential) submission. It may well get rejected with comments, but that's in many ways the purpose of the exercise, and will in the worst-case be considerably cheaper and more legitimate than asking someone who's willing to do it for money what they think first.


This feels like a simple question - do the corrections, and submit within a year. Significantly within a year, if you feel you can address them fully within the time.

You mention dyslexia and mental health issues, but whilst a viva should - and should have - sought to make reasonable adjustments, it is ultimately based on the science - you should be incredibly proud that overcoming dyslexia and mental health issues, you passed with corrections based on the objectively-examined quality of the science.

It's an impossible space, otherwise, to ask examiners to routinely judge how much x condition should allow a PhD to be defended or written. I'd think you're possibly interpreting the corrections/feedback from the wrong standpoint, in that you're jumping to conclusions on how unfair they are (which is the gut response to criticism!), rather than considering what might be being said between the lines is that the literature review wasn't well-defended and/or weak on the page, rather than that you didn't 'talk enough about it'. If the examiners really wanted to be unfair, you'd have walked out with an MPhil or fail.

It would feel, with a positive outcome, that it would be an exercise in foot-shooting to insist on another viva, which could only realistically have a worse outcome, unless the PhD is a flawless straight pass (and very, very few are).

Question about intellectual property

It depends entirely on your contract. Which, if it's a template, will usually have a clause or annex saying the University wholly owns it, which you signed ages ago before this became a consideration. This is particularly the case with student contracts, which is somewhat understandable given the University (likely indirectly) funded the research and stipended the student, and is in-part to guard against students that might enter a lab and seek to steal IP rather than generate it, because it avoids a who-invented-what argument.

Universities, though, are typically happy to (re-)negotiate a split with staff, or have a stated policy of revenue split (which usually increases in the university's favor the larger the venture, to around 50/50) if you seek to spin-out a company, because they're not oblivious to the fact that unless you're incentivised to push the commercial aspect forwards, they'll own 100% of (commercially) nothing.

You'll probably have an IP office at your Uni that can help, though I'd read your contract carefully in advance and devise a plan for exactly what you intend to do in financial/corporate terms, particularly if some form of up-front investment will be required. They will probably be somewhat used to rolling their eyes at another PhD that thinks they have a great idea but are incredibly naive with respect to what it will take to get it to market, particularly in terms of indirect cost. If you have a brilliant idea and a balance of $0, you've unfortunately only done the easy bit so far.

Missing part of results section pre-viva

Part of the positive of a viva is it's ultimately an oral defence, so if you can defend what you did in argument but it's weak on the page, that's not necessarily a problem.

However, a lot of candidates rely on what's on the page - since arguing on your feet vs 2 (hopefully) experienced academics is daunting. It's definitely best to be up-front about any problems, because it's generally a much better look if a candidate with a PhD with issues shows self-awareness of them and willingness to correct them, rather than attempts to argue a flawed thesis to the hilt. I'd think what you describe is very much in the remit of 'corrections'.

What I would definitely not advise, though, is proposing any corrections or pointing out flaws you simply cannot fix. In my time as an examiner, one of the few fails I've experienced were based on a candidate saying they had data/additional results at viva, which we then (logically) requested in corrections - and I suspect the ultimate fail (by non-submission of corrections) resulted from this data not actually existing, making the corrections impossible to address.

Difference of opinion with superviser

No problem, glad it was some help.

There is a classic ontological clash at PhD level between positivism and many other approaches, because positivism is generally an easier stance to do research from, in the context said research will be evaluated, especially as 'pass or fail'. The problem is that whilst critical realism etc. are not inherently bad, a lot of bad research is inherently qual/small sample/self-reflective 'waffle', and CR without careful, rigorous application is more disposed to falling into this than an empirical study, where the criteria can be much more measurable, and statistically reportable - and, frankly, show volume of work, which is often over-appreciated compared to volume of thought.

It's perhaps the higher-level you're overlooking - e.g. when you say you want to use this methodology, you're doing so genuinely, but what you're supervisor is hearing is 'they want to base the PhD off a few interviews, rather than a large scale study because it's less work'. Alas the less mainstream methodologies have a somewhat bad reputation particularly in areas where empirical RCTs hold a 'gold standard' (esp. mixed methods, which is not inherently bad, but often in PhDs emerges as 'I could not do one good study, so I did 3 bad ones').

This might not be a great deal of help in solving the problem, but might be some help in getting insight into where your supervisor is coming from - which, I'd again say is more than a bit of a guess, as I don't know them. It's also very hard to gauge whether this is a solvable problem if you demonstrate through planning and execution the rigour, and effectively work with them to teach them an appreciation of your method(ology), or if they'll just stick to their guns and prefer every student does a neat quant A/B study with an ANOVA and large-enough-power-to-merit-a-PhD. I'd think the other worry would be if you do keep working with them if they'd be in a position to appoint examiners from an appropriate field.

And by the way - yes there are massive cultural differences in supervision style. Which might actually be the whole thing. In southern europe and most of the world, by and large, a student does what they're told and the supervisor is massively respected to the extent directions are followed and opinions are only challenged in dire circumstances or over drinks (in Japan, particuarly, there's a whole system around that, where the student often has to get drunk to ask a critical question because then their implied disrespect can be passed off as drunkenness!). In northern europe and the US it's generally more discussive or argumentative. Which is a *really* broad stroke and of course not universally true, but has been my experience. The approach your supervisor takes will very likely be influenced more by the system they're from when they did their own PhD, than the system they're in.

My viva was awful - need advice

One of the most important things to note are any procedural irregularities - you examiner arriving late in itself may not be substantial grounds for appeal, but if they they indicated their review or the viva itself was rushed as a result, this would definitely qualify.

A viva is intrinsically very subjective; there's considerable debate over whether, in modern academia, 2 people picked by your supervisor is the best way to examine years of work. Unfortunately you can't change the system. But you can consider:

- If there indeed are any procedural irregularities, these are much more open and successful for appeal than academic judgement. It's generally not worth arguing the verdict, but you can readily argue the process by which it was reached. For example, if your supervisor was required to sign off on the submission and did not do so, or did not do so following the correct process, this is certainly grounds for appeal. The general feeling in academia is that a supervisor that has allowed a student to submit a failed PhD is, in many ways, the one responsible for the fail (though, of course, the student is the one that suffers).

- Forgetting that for a moment, if they passed you with majors (and a pass with majors, is a pass, never forget that) - you may find yourself surprised by how achievable the corrections are. It is the job of examiners to be critical and combative - and shred you, as required - this is not necessarily a bad thing if they then give you corrections that are achievable and will make your PhD better. The only point you need to revert to complaint about process is if the corrections are flatly unachievable; like repeating a study without any resources or time. Otherwise you will likely find highly critical examiners are very unlikely to reject majors if it's clear the candidate has put the effort in. You will see horror stories on these forums; and it does, sadly, happen, but often with majors examiners are trying to send a strong message, which if the candidate listens to, they will have a lot of empathy for.

- Note your external can shred you and actually be a mediocre academic at best. In fact, the worst/least experienced academics are, by a mile, the most critical. You can make the judgement call on whether to dispute them, but usually the best call is to (sadly) acquiesce, and disprove their judgement in your postdoctoral work, when they don't have any hold over you.

What perhaps blows my mind in this and other posts is - what was the supervisor thinking? I'm thinking we're sadly moving to a world where the blind lead the blind, and the inexperienced supervisor googles rather than knows people with relevant expertise. It really should not be the case a viva is a surprise for a student, or that the opinions of the examiners massively differ from the supervisor.

Difference of opinion with superviser

At most Unis there is some form of annual review system, though it's not an essential requisite of a PhD so varies by institution.

Also at most Unis, your supervisor will be involved in the decision of the annual review, which can include ending your studies as a potential outcome, usually after some opportunities to repeat. Your supervisor will also select your PhD examiners. In brief, they have quite a lot of power to determine the outcome of your PhD.

You could change, but as you say, you don't want to look like a 'problem child'. To paraphrase, to have to change supervisors once is unfortunate, to have to change them twice might mean you need to self-reflect a bit on your expectations of supervision and how you approach the supervisory relationship.

Traditionally, PhD students were primarily there to help supervisors deliver their research. Academia has shifted a bit, in that it's happy to take on far more unfunded PhDs for the money. The problem there is that an unfunded PhD can come with expectations of a one-sided transaction with the supervisor who will do 'stuff' for them - not unreasonable, because they're paying. But the money you're paying the Uni is not money the supervisor will ever see, so if it's a one-sided transaction, it's just extra work for them, which can make them dismissive.

Some things to consider;

> When was the last time you asked you supervisor what they're working on, and if there's anything you could do to help (within reason)?
> I wouldn't ask your supervisor to find things for you to read. Read things, then ask them their opinion.
> You shouldn't expect your supervisor to 'teach' in the sense of the subject matter, particularly if it's undergrad/msc level things. It's their role to guide your studies, not act as a lecturer.
> Before asking your supervisor for resources/contacts, get a clear research question and strategy put together. The worry your supervisor probably has is you'll waste their time, and that will reflect badly on them (this does happen a lot, even with the most well-meaning students). Bear in mind academics in general if it's not undergrad teaching will also be somewhat along the lines of 'what's in it for me' if you generate work for them (a stance we're forced to adopt, because we're overloaded); you need some form of answer to that question.

But all that said;

> I have no idea what the actual supervisor is like. They may indeed be a very difficult, or impossible person, academia has more than its fair share. But I'd attempt to approach them with a slightly different strategy and see if it yields results before changing again. If it's an unsalvageable relationship, then it is indeed far better to change early and quickly than continue with one that will sabotage you.

VIVA confusing story

Having been on the examiner side, often as an external you're a bit vexed by the individual "Uni rules vs Uni culture". Logic somewhat dictates you give a good candidate as much time as possible to do the corrections, because - why not? Culture sometimes dictates it's seen 'worse' as having 6-month corrections instead of 3-month, because it somehow implies the work was worse and therefore needs more time.

It's probably the case, as I've seen happen, the chair just asked the examiners along the lines of 'should we give them 3 months, or 6?'. The examiners responded just by giving you more time, because it makes life easier for you, rather than as a judgment of quality. It might have been the case as well, as I've become more sensitive to as an examiner, that they asked you 'what next', and if you said you have a new role, etc., with all the stresses that come with that, it makes (some) examiners inclined to give more time than if someone will purely do nothing but work on corrections.

In all cases, I'd consider the correction duration as a limit, not a target, and because of the above, if you feel you can comfortably do them in 2 months, I wouldn't hesitate to ask your supervisor for feedback then if they're happy go ahead and submit ahead of time.

Confusion about a PhD offer...

I'll guess I'll do the counter-argument;

There may be 'red flags', but if your supervisor has a track record in blue-sky research through which they've supervised students to completion, doing this type of work for a PhD is not automatically worrying or a bad thing. It's also not necessarily a bad thing for a supervisor not to know much about the PhD topic itself; what tends to count far more is they're an experienced supervisor with connections who can firmly advise on 'how to do a PhD', rather than the literature/method/etc. as that, typically, needs to come from you as a PhD candidate.

'Failure' in academia means failing to propose a valid question, or methodological flaw. It does not mean showing what you did/made 'works', as that's bad science. Trying something new and showing it doesn't work is a PhD, if done rigorously.

Pragmatically, if you're doing a PhD, there's nothing stopping you applying for other vacancies/studentships - though it would add the slight hurdle of having to explain well why you want to leave the one you're on. It might also, though, open doors as you'll have connections to other professors/groups etc. in the process of the PhD that could lead to the discussion on moving; a far harder one to have if you're on the outside applying.

It's also generally the case any PhD candidate can, and should, shape their PhD, rather than just painting-by-numbers under direction. If you think the project has a flaw, then the goal should be to identify it, argue it, and fix it, rather than blindly continue. The biggest catch there, though, would be what exactly in funded - which may not be as malleable.

The tests for me, in discussion with the potential supervisor would be..

- How many PhDs have they supervised before? What were the outcomes?
- How much is the research constrained by the funding objectives, and how much is open to interpretation or change?
- How well connected/respected in the group in the general field?

The decision would be balanced between how well these are answered, vs the risk of not finding and equivalent funded PhD - which might mean they don't need to be brilliantly answered, just not awfully answered.

Is this the real life? Is this what an academic's job looks like?

It is, pretty much, the life of an early career academic. But I can maybe share you some tips from experience to spare you your life from this monstrosity:

Lit reviews are often written into funding bids because they're an obvious thing to do, to the casual observer. As a reviewer, I dislike proposals that include them where they seem to be to self-inform the project team. I mean, you're an expert in it already - you shouldn't need funding to Google it. If there is a case for a literature review as a research task, it should hinge on some observed contradiction or issue in existing literature that needs exploring. The problem is because so many proposals have lit reviews blindly written-in, with no clear purpose, postdocs that already know the subject area end up reiterating their existing knowledge for the nth time in longhand 'because they have to'.

Advice #1 on that, is argue the case/purpose/scope of what you're doing academically (as you've been trained to do); rather than blindly following direction or a 'project document' that is basically the proposal, reformatted, and containing all the issues you'd expect from a proposal that, whilst it might have good science behind it overall, is no doubt flawed as well. It can be hard to switch mindset from being a student with things you 'have' to do, to being an academic that should, rightly, argue if something is pointless or scientifically naive.

Advice #2 on that, is learn to quickly, lazily write unimportant documents and prioritise your time on important stuff. The amount of time I've seen postdocs stress over an (e.g.) EU project deliverable, which only needs to pass cursory review (as the reviewers, also don't care about a lit review document other than to check the box it exists), when they could have spent that time on more productive activities - that would genuinely further the objectives of the project - is impressive. It can also be hard to switch from having learned to write rigorously, scientifically, and with careful proofing, to realising not *all* documents need to be written rigorously, scientifically, or carefully proofed.

On the teaching side - yes, we all prepare our slides the weekend before the lecture. The light at the end of the tunnel there, is you can deliver the same slides the next year(ish). Teaching feels like less work and stress the longer you do it. Dig your heels in as far as possible if they ever try to increase your marking workload, though.

This all assumes you'll stay in academia. And there's nothing wrong with leaving. It definitely is a sunk-cost fallacy that the PhD will be 'wasted' if you leave. Really finding happiness in the world of work, is about carving out a niche, whatever the role, that you enjoy; and part of that niche-carving often involves doing what might be called a 'half-assed job' on stuff that's unimportant.

Research methods justifications

This is a generic answer, but the key really is 'scope'. If you only have 2 sites, then presumably those sites are specific in terms of (something like) demographic, location, discipline, behaviour, etc. If you refine the scope such that you're looking at this specific demographic (etc.), then it generally makes it easier to explain the context of the findings and the limitations in terms of generalisability.

There's a good PhD comics on the 'research' method (where you define the question, then ascertain a methodology, etc.); and the 'actual' method, where you end up reverse engineering the research question to fit pragmatic constraints. Not an ideal, but often a reality.

Value of optional TA position?

"Since you have been on hiring committees, generally speaking, what are some considerations you would make in assessing to hire or not candidate A who has the same number of publications as candidate B but A has one more major journal than B and B has a TAship when A has no TAships? What if instead of a major journal, A just had 1 more publication than B?"

That's never *actually* happened since it's very much a hypothetical. And I would say, frankly, it would likely depend on how they come across at interview - enthusiasm, energy, and presentation skill on the day tend to carry more weight relative to a CV than they should. In a perfect world, we'd judge objectively by merit alone, but in a world where interviews are a thing rather than an algorithm, a candidates 'likability' tends to carry some considerable weight. Often, in a teaching scenario, there's a degree of not what a candidate knows, but how well you think they'd engage with students (there are often a lot of talented PhDs who hide at the back of the lab in their early teaching experiences). Similarly, in a research sense the 'how well would they fit the group' often gets swayed by charisma rather than aptitude.

I think what I'm saying ultimately is this strays a bit into the 'random noise' territory, where the decision wouldn't be made on that alone and could easily be decided either way by the candidate's performance on the day. One thing I have definitely learned on hiring committees, is that before, as a prospective postdoc, I'd put more much weight on minutiae of CV details than actually seem to be noticed, let alone considered as a major factor.

Of course this doesn't really help answer your question. I would probably, on overall balance, say A would objectively be better on paper. It's very hard to say 'major' journal, e.g. if it's Nature, candidate A pretty much wins; if B's article is in some predatory publishing BS 'journal of science', then they lose. If it's some kind of debatable, subject-specific thing, which is in reality likely, then there's more of a grey area. I think it's also the case if you manage teaching time correctly (i.e. ruthlessly), then it shouldn't take so many hours out of your week that it outright prevents a top-tier publication. But I would also say having just noted 'volunteer', that you should be paid for teaching. I'd definitely be reticent about any teaching contact that's unpaid as that seems exploitative regardless.

When to Publish

It's hard to answer because the value and type of publication vary a lot by discipline. But as a rule of thumb, having one, solid, journal publication, in a journal well-recognised in your field, prior to viva is what I'd recommend. Posters/conf papers are a nice icing to the cake, but one good output is the biggest aid in the defence and your career.

You don't technically need to ever publish beyond the thesis to get a PhD. It gets complicated because often students will be told they 'need' to publish, when the reality is the group/supervisor want to encourage them to publish with their name on it (or even they're just chairing something and short on posters to decorate the hall). But, on the flip side, it's a very strong asset at viva to have a peer-reviewed publication related to the thesis, because you can argue to examiners that the peer-reviewers though your work was valid and worthy of publication, so if they challenge anything, why don't they?

I'd say a good publication is worth infinitely many bad ones - but I don't know your field, or the prevailing methodology etc. I'd be suspect of a 1st year publication being genuinely REF-able (in the sense it'd be considered worth returning, rather than just eligible for return), because you should still be in the space of learning the field and understandably still trying to get your head around the literature, but that doesn't mean it's not the case. It's a bit worrying your main supervisor sounds like a washed up academic who just teaches - something I get, but not something (s)he should be impressing on you - I'd listen to your 2nd supervisor on that.

Value of optional TA position?

I have been on hiring committees and I'd say it wouldn't be a big plus, but it might be a minor plus.

Generally, academic hires work on the weird assumption everyone can teach. This is patently untrue, but often what's looked at - in the UK at least - are the metrics relevant to the research, i.e. what can you return in a future RAE. From what (perhaps little) I understand globally it's similar, but might vary in what these metrics are (citations vs venue, etc.).

One hidden plus, is that if you're good at it, you might find yourself with a job offer from your own institution when you graduate. Nobody likes to lose good teaching staff because it means somebody else needs to teach x obscure subject, and people with expertise in x obscure subject are hard to find. But this might not be as good a job prospect as a proper postdoc.

There's a more general plus that it will hopefully help you go from teaching infront of 200 people being a terrifying thing, to the kind of thing you turn up 5 minutes late to with a coffee and sleep your way through. One of the best things about teaching in academia is how, after about 6 months, it - for most people - cures fear of public speaking. There's a lot to be said for that as a learning experience.