Overview of Elsie

Recent Posts

How do you tell your supervisor that you're unhappy with their supervision?

Yeah I agree with the others, some great suggestions already made. That is your supervisor's working style, you're not going to change it. You have to find a way to work with them. Remember that you are in charge of the project, find ways to (tactfully) not use the advice that you think is bad. I found this happened sometimes in my phd too, 'luckily' my supervisor would often not remember what they'd said the last time, so I rarely had to justify the occassions when I didn't take their advice.

publication almost impossible!

Hi Satchi,
Remember, if you don't get rejections, then you are not aiming high enough! So if you get rejections at first, that is totally ok. Then you can use their feedback to change the manuscript and try again, or you can move down the list to a lower impact journal. Don't worry, it's normal to have journal rejections, even the top professors get rejections all the time. I know it's disappointing, and so frustrating that it takes soooo long to get anything published. If you need something published quickly, maybe just try a lower rated journal, and it might help build your confidence to have something accepted.

Also, for job applications, maybe you can list your manuscripts as "submitted". Then they will know you are actively preparing your work for publication, and it will get accepted eventually. Another trick I have used is to title the section "publications and recent conference presentations", and list any presentations and posters as well. Though it depends how specific they are about how the application is done.

Keep trying and your papers will get accepted for sure :)

Supervisor claimed our co-authored work as her own

Hi Human, I'm glad your complaint was taken seriously, and action was taken. You are right- it's better that the misconduct is not allowed to continue, of course. I have seen people get burnt by the system though, where the university protects its own and the student is pushed out with nowhere to turn. But since you had solid evidence of misconduct, it seems to have worked in your favour. Thanks for posting the update, its good to hear that standing up for yourself can sometimes go well!

journal ranking

Hi Satchi, for science and social science you should go to the ISI Web of Knowledge website. Go to "additional resources" then "journal citation reports". You can then select a certain field or topic, and it will show the list of journals ranked by various metrics, including the impact factor, which is what most people go by. Or if you already know of some journals, you can usually find their impact factors by googling or looking on each journal websites. Hope this helps.

Supervisor presenting my paper at conference? - Help

Academics do often present their students' work at conferences, but should give credit to you when presenting and your name should also be on it. But if you've prepared the paper with the understanding that you will present it, it seems unfair to then expect you to step aside. I would tell your supervisor that you'd like to present it yourself, if possible, as it is good experience etc, and see what they say. It could be that money is a problem, there might only be enough for one of you to go, to pay for travel, accommodation, registration fee etc. Sometimes there is some funding that students can apply for to pay for their expenses, both from the conference itself and from your uni. Try to find out from your supervisor if the issue is money, and see if there is anything you could apply for, so that you could both go to the conference.

Supervisor claimed our co-authored work as her own

It may well be miscounduct from what you say, but I think getting the journal involved will just make things worse for you. You could have the paper withdrawn from the journal, but this tends to look bad for all involved, and others might assume that your work is fundamentally flawed. Or possibly they could publish a correction, but then your authorship disputes are published for all to see, and this is likely to harm your future career chances more than being under-credited on the paper, as people may see you as a troublemaker. I don't see what else the journal can do after the article has gone to press, basically it's too late to rectify such issues at this stage.

Your sup sounds very insecure, as surely there is plenty of kudos for her if her students are doing good work and publishing! It is quite odd behaviour, and awful that she can get away with it, but if you decide to pursue this be aware that you are unlikely to get an outcome that will benefit you much. I would focus on preventing this happening to you again, getting your degree and moving on to work with someone else less petty and controlling.

Follow the template of the publication?

If you exceed the page limit when using their formatting, that means your abstract/paper is too long, and you should reduce it to follow their directions.

Phd suspend and defer, is it the same?

Hi Satchi,
I think you'll have to ask your uni admin, as it will depend on what they actually have on their records. But in either case, I doubt there'll be a problem submitting, you might just have to fill in an extra form or something. Congrats on your upcoming submission ;)

Supervisor claimed our co-authored work as her own

Hi Human, it sounds like your supervisor may have acted somewhat dishonestly, but I think there's not much you can do about it now without burning bridges you might need later. No, I wouldn't write to the journal, the issue of who contributed what is rather subjective, and authorship disputes are common- the journal is not going to do anything. Keep in mind that the impact of that extra sentence may not be so huge- you are still an author on the paper, which is the important thing. You can include it on your publication list for applications etc. As you build up a longer publication list it will not be a big deal at all.

As annoying as it is, my advice would be to let this one go. Maintaining as good a relationship with your sup as possible is more important than an incorrect contribution statement in a paper. But I would raise it with your supervisor in person, see if they have some justification for what they wrote, and if they don't then tell them that you think what they wrote was wrong.

Is my Bio PhD on track?

These things vary depending on the nature of your project- some projects take a lot of work before you start to get enough publishable results, while others will start to generate data from the beginning, but you might need masses of data before it really amounts to anything. Molecular genetics is renound for taking ages to get anywhere in the beginning, but if/when you get the techniques working, it's usually pretty quick from there to publishable results. As usual- try not to compare yourself with others ;) easier said than done.

That said, if you want to stay in research, you will benefit hugely from publishing, more than anything esle. Post docs are often not easy to get, it's pretty competitive out there. It's not a great situation if you really won't have enough to publish even one paper from your phd. So I really would try to figure out a pathway to publication, ideally sit down with your supervisor and make some concrete plans. One way is to make sure you've got a balanced project, with some relatively easy, "safe" but not so interesting experiments, and some more difficult, high risk but (if it works) more exciting experiments. For example, if you're having trouble with your current approaches, you might need to keep persevering to some extent, but at the same time get some back up plans up and running. There are also other ways of getting published, like literature review papers, which you might also discuss with your supervisor.

Hope this helps a bit.


Hi Cleancotton, it sounds to me like your experience is not at all typical for a phd (in terms of expected working place and hours etc), though as others have said, if you're based in industry/business setting the requirements and expectations can be more formal. That said, some university academics also keep close eye on their students and want them to be in the office certain hours, etc.

Maybe you have tried these things, but can you ask your supervisor/s for more flexible working arrangements, maybe on a trial basis at first, citing travel time/ other responsibilities/ health issues, stressing that this will improve your efficiency, and you will be very grateful and get more work done? This would be a reasonable request from a staff member also, if the job description permitted it. Or could you arrange to be based part time with your first supervisor at the uni? Or if you really think you can't work well with your current supervisors, you could try speaking to someone at the uni about changing your project or your supervisors, if your funding allows that. There might be other options than quitting if you want the phd. A phd should be hard, but in a challenging and rewarding way, not an awful experience to be suffered through.

But if what you really want is to leave to do something else, try not to worry about what other people will think. Easier said than done I know, but likely your family will not really think you have "failed", and even if they do, it's your life, not theirs. Leaving a situation that is not right for you is not a failure, in fact, staying in a bad situation too long could be seen as a failure. I'd make sure you find a job or another phd project before you quit though.

Best of luck! xx

Is There Life After PhD? Jobs Market is Terrifying...

Maybe not an option for everyone, but I assume you have considered appying for academic jobs in other countries? It's probably tough to break into academia pretty well everywhere right now, but some countries are worse than others- and the UK seems to be one of the worst hit.

HELP ME PLEASE Supervisor a nightmare

You are right to consider your choice of supervisors carefully- it can make a huge difference in the outcome of your phd, how much you enjoy the process and what you get out of it aside from the piece of paper.  That said, there are probably always going to be at least some problems and tensions in the relationship at some point. Having just started, you have very little to lose by changing supervisors now, if you are really not happy with your current one.

The set up does sound a bit odd, and it is worrying if he has only just completed a phd himself, and never supervised a phd before. At many unis academics are not allowed to be the primary supervisor until they have been the 2nd or 3rd on a certain number. A supervisors experience in "getting through the system" can be invaluable. But maybe your 2nd supervisor would be able to fill this role.

Clearly the long distance option also has it's drawbacks, as it will mean that you probably won't get as much out of the experience, unless you are able to move closer.

Obviously the decision is yours, but I think you are doing the right thing by carefully considering your options at this point.
Good luck!

Hit a low period

Hi Lemonjuice,
You need to go and see a doctor, and explain how you are feeling. You are right it is serious, it sounds like you are depressed and need some medical attention. Is there a uni counselor, or a friend or family member you can talk to as well?

It sounds to me like you need to take a break from your phd, and take care of yourself. A phd can be incredibly stressful, and depression is very common. It doesn't mean you are incapable or weak in any way, most people who do a phd have low points and feel awful at some stage, I know I have many times. You can get through it, but you just need to get some help and support first. And if you decide to quit, there is no shame in that, there are many other amazing things that you could do instead. But don't make this decision now.

Please talk to someone you trust, and keep us updated on how you are feeling.
*hugs* E x

Contradictory advice from supervisors

This can be tricky. Have you asked your supervisors for clarification on what they mean by discussing and speculating, can they give you some examples of what they expect? Similarly, do you understand the rationale for doing the experiments your supervisor suggested? If not, ask them to explain again! Maybe they envisage the research going in a different direction than you?

I’ve been in a similar situation, I did a lot of reading etc, and kept proposing certain experiments, but I don’t think my supervisor ever really got what I was on about. But my supervisor was very much the free rein type, with too many projects going to keep track of what everyone was doing, so after several frustrating and circular discussions, I basically just went did what I wanted anyway. Luckily for me I was right, it all worked out and we got a very good paper out of it. But I knew I could get away with this without annoying my supervisor too much, and I suppose it could also quite easily have gone wrong.

There is danger in a student ignoring or not properly understanding a supervisors advice, and being somewhat arrogant in the face of the wealth of experience a supervisor has in doing research and getting students through a phd successfully. But there is also danger in supervisors getting stuck in particular ways of thinking, not listening to the student, not thinking carefully about the experiment and making assumptions. Afterall, most scientific breakthroughs are made my young researchers with a fresh perspective.

So I guess my advice is- don’t do experiments you don’t see the point of just because your supervisor says so. But make sure you properly understand your supervisor’s perspective, and remember that they have a lot more experience and know things that you don’t. After this, if you are still sure about your approach, and are not just being naive, keep trying to argue for the experiments you want. But you also don’t want to annoy your supervisor or explicitly go against their instructions- this is the tricky part.