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Advice on supervisor feedback issues

A very long story short, one of the issues I am having is that I do not receive any content-based feedback on my work. Everything I have ever given in- even if I explain it is not fully written or structured and I am submitting it to get idea feedback- will only get stylistic comments on topic sentences etc. I am starting to quite worried that my ideas won't have received any level of critique before the viva. I do conferences etc. but it's not the same as monthly engagement with your ideas. I am just going into my second year and I can't help feeling that the repercussions of this will be too big (but trying not to be defeatest)- I am new to my topic too and have basically been trying to get to grips with everything without a single nudge in the right direction, comment on my understanding of an idea or literature recommendation. As a first year, I just thought it was normal and didn't want to cause any conflict. My supervisor is a different field to me and despite completing the application for this PhD, I'm worried they do not know/ want to know about my subject. I have asked for content-based feedback before, but my supervisor gets really defensive and starts with quite personal comments.

I have a few questions: Has anyone else ever experienced anything like this? Am I right to flag this- I feel like it is a major issue but sometimes it's hard to gauge with PhD's what warrants what? If so, does anyone have any advice on how to professionally approach this? I would essentially be saying I'm not happy with the feedback I receive, but I don't want to deteriorate the relationship and I am also wary of their reaction.

Thanks in advance for any help.

Disclosing mental health issues to supervisor

Hello- I went through the exact same thing around the same timeframe and struggled with the same issues. I felt quite guilty that my supervisor didn't know what was going on, but it is also something that is difficult to disclose. It's part of what I dislike about being a PhD student- sometimes you feel like you fall through the cracks a little. The relationship with a supervisor is more like a working relationship, but you don't really have the same supports and processes for these things as a workplace (ie. going to HR) and have to navigate a lot of this yourself.

I ended up emailing my supervisors telling them what was happening, and I took 2 weeks of annual leave which I stated was for mental health reasons. Taking annual leave was also another way of saying 'I'm struggling, I need a break'. When telling my supervisors I kept it professional and practical and kept details about my mental health to a bare minimum- I stated what was happening briefly, how it was impacting my work and what I was going to do to try and move forward. I was very focused on the impact and solutions part, as I did not really want to invite discussion or offload the mental health aspects onto my supervisor. They were perfectly understanding and I took the time away from my project which I would highly recommend.

I cannot promise that all supervisors react the same and it may be naive to ignore the stigma's that exist around mental health, but these issues are becoming more recognised and the university has a duty of care towards you. What you are going through are legitimate, incredibly difficult but common issues. I ended up thinking- I need to take care of myself, I need to cover myself and if I were supervising any student and they were struggling, I would want to know. I tell you this as my experience and what I decided, but there is no real right answer and I would not want to make you feel as though you had to disclose something you did not want to. You could also perhaps take the time away, without explicitly explaining why and the outcomes for yourself would be similar. This could perhaps be something to ask university counselling, who may also help with how to word things to your supervisor whatever you decide.

Workwise, you have taken some really positive steps and should be proud. Strip back your work to small amounts of low stake interaction each day- it may feel slow but I promise you are making more progress than you think. Having a small amount of work you can tick off each day will help you feel less stressed and your work more manageable. In reality, a PhD is small amounts of steady progress over a long period of time. Two things I learnt during this time 1) I am more important than my PhD 2) this period of time does not define myself or my whole PhD journey- these things are fixable! I hope that helps.

mid-PhD blues


Can you downgrade to an MPhil on a funded PhD?

I wondered if anyone knew if you can choose to downgrade to an MPhil on an AHRC funded PhD? I am increasingly feeling that PhD life is not for me and this seemed like a good option (I’m halfway through my second year so I’ve still done a lot of work). However, I wondered if because it’s a funded PhD it might be an ‘all or nothing’ situation- or perhaps that choosing to downgrade could mean I can no longer be funded for the duration of completing the MPhil.

On a more general level, is there is usually a timeframe if you choose to downgrade? I think that an MPhil is usually 2 years so would that mean I have to complete the MPhil within 2 years of when I began my PhD?

Thanks in advance to anyone who has any ideas about this. I know I need to ask my university and the AHRC (couldn’t find anything in the training grant contract or online) but wanted to see if anyone else had any experience before I float this as something I’m considering to anyone on an official level.