anxiety about thesis submission.


Dear all,

I am currently in a very bad situation. I cannot submit my thesis on time. I know it might be very common to the most PhD students, but my case has a slightly "funny" part.

My PhD research is in the engineering field. I must say my PhD is not bad. In the past 4 years, I have published 2 first-author papers, and 3 none-first author papers,1 corresponding author paper under review, that is even outside of my study subject, but in the same filed of my PhD. Currently I am authoring the other first author paper which is based on the third part of my thesis. I have finished all writing, language checking/rewording (as a none-native speaker, it is a must-be.). My supervisor A, as the acting supervisor, give me a few feedback. we went through about two/three drafts. I have merged all his comments and suggestions, made a double check with the proofreader to ensure everything is perfect. Three months ago, one professor in mechanical engineering department even talked to me about helping/supporting me to get a very prestigious fellowship in Germany.

It seems I could easily get the submission of my thesis on time. However, I CANNOT !! The thesis is ready to be submitted now. At least I think so. But the supervisor A suddenly would like supervisor B to give me more comments about the whole thesis. And He asked this only two or three weeks before the final submission day. My supervisor B is a very responsible person who has lost himself in the details of my thesis and has a slightly new idea about my thesis structure. I am shocked by all happened so far. I know the university policy that I may not need the permission/feedback from supervisors for the final submission, although it is not advisable. But in the current situation, this could be the only solution for my problem. But I do NOT want to take this action which might offend two supervisors.

I could not wait any longer neither, otherwise, I have to pay the additional tuition fees on my own expense. This will also cause more troubles for me to get jobs. I have received lots of rejections due to unfinished PhD on my CV. More importantly, I am constantly worrying about they just simply leave things there, slowly run the process, and keep asking me to renewal the extension, because this is how they supervised me in the past 4 years. The professor in mechanical engineering also seems losing his interest to support me because this slowly unfinished work.

What should I do ?? I appreciate any suggestions here.


My situation is similar to yours. At least you have more papers published than me. My supervisor says she is still reading my paper... But she said the same thing more than one year ago. It is a pity that this paper received an award during a conference two years ago, but still cannot be published because the supervisor is "busy"...

Anyway, she has difficulty with understanding my thesis. So I told her of the tuition fees etc... You should be frank by telling your problems to the supervisors. Somehow with some "pushing", my thesis was submitted recently.

Actually, her suggestions for my thesis are only a few, and mainly "cosmetic". However, it seems that both my external examiners are full professors and are world renowned. So, it can be quite dangerous if they are going to be very critical...


Quote From ywan459:

I could not wait any longer neither, otherwise, I have to pay the additional tuition fees on my own expense. This will also cause more troubles for me to get jobs. I have received lots of rejections due to unfinished PhD on my CV.

Are your supervisors aware of these consequences? If not, I suggest speaking to them about these issues, as it may encourage them to move things forward. Speak to both of them, not just supervisor B.


MeaninginLife and HazyJane,

I will try to combine my replies to two of your posts above in one post. It could make my story better to read, since I found, indeed, the issues you mentioned are related.

MeaninginLife, about 3 years ago, I have an exactly same case as you had/have now. I drafted a paper about my initial work and some results. I gave it to my supervisor A who is my actual acting mentor. He just kept saying he was busy, and complained the details of the paper. After a few months, he completely ignored the draft, I suppose. Because since then, I've never heard anything about the draft from him till today. This is very irrational/illogical. At the time he had not taken the turner position. Partially it is because of his publications were not enough for that. It means he certainly needed more papers from his students. I am the only one at the time to give him some results. But the fact is that I provided one and he refused subsequently. I do not understand this response. I still could not figure out what went wrong. I believe this becomes "one of unsolved issues" in my life.

HazyJane, I tried to raise the issues in my original post to supervisor A and B. The A seems understand my situation. He gave me a few of verbal supports about my future job searching. That is all. But the B I will not try to make a direct conversation about this. One of his previous students had a similar situation before. He seems not care about the future of the student when the student is trying to leave him, and not doing any post-doc with him or his collaborators. I am serious about this here. That's what B's attitude to the issues. He does not care about you, if you decided to not work with him as the post-doc in future.

(See next post please)


Yesterday, I talked with the A to explain what the current situation is. He was not worrying about this. He said the B gives me a promises of returning everything on Sunday, I should just wait that. But B just start all read 2 days ago, how could he finish up the entire thesis in a few days. And what B told me is that, he need several weeks for doing so. On the commented chapter 1 that all I got so far, the B has a strong interest to change the structure of thesis. I showed this to A, and A told me to ignore that with a good reason. SO what is the point of asking B to revise the entire thesis. This is purely wasting my time and B's time. At the end of conversation, supervisor A kicked the ball back to me and B, A said that myself should talk to B for figuring out a timetable, etc.. The implication is that this is not his business anymore.

(see the next post please)


MeaninginLife, I found A knows nothing of my research and the field of our study, even if he pretend to be an expert in this field in public events. His comments showed his ignorance to the research matter. His comments are just "cosmetic"- as what you commented to your supervisor. Last month, he even complained not enough publications due to my poor writing skill. I am extremely disappointed by his attitude to me. Then, I have decided to no longer stay in academic and has no other future research connections with him. HazyJane, I found B has carefully been keeping away from me in the past four years. The B might have considered I am the student of A, and A thinks I have B. So none of them would like to take willing to give me a normal guidance (do not even mention a good supervision). I have worked very hard in the past four years, and contributed most of my time, holidays in the office/lab and try to get all results. And now, this is the return of the four years hard working under very bad supervisions - I have nothing, no job, unfinished phd, etc..

I am so regret to do this PhD. But I need move forward and push this issue forward. I have even considered to terminate my registration at University. What can I do ??


It seems that you are not meeting both supervisors at the same time? If possible, all three of you should sit together for a cup of coffee. Maybe a casual meeting on possible future conference; then bring out the question if there should be changes in the structure… maybe B has a valid point.

You have to be rational now. What if the external examiners request for major corrections? This may happen to me; my supervisor is not an expert in my area. She is currently an assistant professor who is also assessing another PhD thesis. Some PhD thesis could be assessed by assistant professor. But my university requires associate professor or full professor to be the examiners. Do you know who are the potential examiners for your thesis? Perhaps, this could provide some reasons whether you should make some changes according to your supervisor B.

In fact, writing clearly is an important skill; I have not mastered it yet. So, don’t simply dismiss the comment on “poor writing skill”. If the examiners comment that they could not understand your thesis, then both your supervisors can use it against you. Try to polish your paper just one more time?

Do you know why I am assigned to my supervisor? I was told to help her in publication. But I may not find an academic job now because of her delay in editing my paper... Ha! Ha! My situation is not better than you...


MeaninginLife, supervisor A is a professor in Germany, last month he visited my home and mentioned the examiners. I knew both of them. One of the examiner from EU was the reviewer of my paper. My supervisor A has some chats with him during the conference about my works. He might rise some critical questions about my works as what he did on the paper review. Indeed, my supervisor A and B will have a collaboration with him. They will take an conference opportunity to have a meeting next month in US. You are absolutely right. What if there is a major revision. I did consider this as well. I am not too worry about the other one who has different background and research.

I did ask one month extension for this final revision. The thesis might need a double check with supervisor B. This morning, I have a strong feeling I might overreact due to the stress from the last stage of my PhD.


One of my external examiners is also from Germany. He has been the invited speaker for numerous conferences. Really world-renowned... So, my situation is worse....

Let me clarify the word, cosmetic. My supervisor mainly asked me to improve the table presentations and alignment of paragraphs. So your supervisor B even mentions structure. He seems more serious and helpful! :-)


Quote From MeaninginLife:
One of my external examiners is also from Germany. He has been the invited speaker for numerous conferences. Really world-renowned... So, my situation is worse....

Let me clarify the word, cosmetic. My supervisor mainly asked me to improve the table presentations and alignment of paragraphs. So your supervisor B even mentions structure. He seems more serious and helpful! :-)

What I am not happy about is the A suddenly asked this final revision just three weeks before submission, and B seems a kind overreact to this. They just do nothing, but I have to spend money, time on their slowly process. What if the B want a new thesis, what can I do ? Leave his comments along, or re-write my thesis ?

I do not like the A's guidance very much. His very bad supervision wastes my 4 years time and energy. The comments made by A is better than those of yours given by your supervisor. However, A's comments do not help too much. For example, I have demonstrated a new way to solve the highly nonlinear mechanical model, however, he cannot understand it (this is abs ok.) and simply used very rude words to describe those works are pointless. The reason he want B to double check is that, A is not sure about all math on my thesis, he is afraid if there is anything wrong but he did not point out. I am very unhappy of he asking this in the last mins.

MeaninginLife, you should not worry about that too much of those examiner revision. In these days, there is no minor revision, only major one you will have. The term of minor revision is for the case of typo in the modern definition. If any of your examiner want you to add an explanation or more work, they are all called the major revision. You have experience of the paper revision. The thesis review will be less critical than that.


Your new way of solving highly nonlinear mechanical model could be just another numerical analysis or slight change in existing algorithm? Perhaps, you should present your results to Supervisor A and compare the results based on conventional model as well as experimental results?? There are three columns in this table.

Supervisor A's use of rude word may suggest insecurity in him; it could be a defense mechanism to appear knowledgable. But maybe give him benefit of doubt; maybe you should also explain the limitations of your method. That is, your results are valid under certain constraints, and beyond certain boundary conditions, your method may be less accurate etc... Maybe you did not present your results thoroughly? Just trying to be open minded... maybe you are correct, but just in case...

Don't remind me of paper review. There were four reviewers: One happily agree; One reject my paper in nasty way; the other two somewhere in between. Journal paper or PhD thesis is really in the eye of the beholder.


I have been being opened mind for 4 years, my dear friend. These two supervisors do not care about my progress or research. They just want papers. I hate they have suddenly picked things up, and pretend to giving me some advise in two or four weeks time. This is all on my personal expense. I am the one paying their faults, not only money but also the most valuable time. The A adapted a very wrong approach that ask the others who might have slightly different ideas to have look the thesis. How could I change everything in two weeks time ??

The structure of thesis followed the idea of A, otherwise he was constantly not happy with the structure. Indeed, he did not know anything in this field, he wants me to explain everything in an idiomatic language. If he cannot understand, he just simply say this is bad, etc.. B seems unlike those standard things, he want me to delete them all. What can I do ?? To ask A telling B, this is all he does not know ??


I know of one PhD (part time) student who is in the 8th year; extension was possible based on personal reasons. However, the main reason (I feel) is he published 3 papers and 3 book-chapters. He is under a lot of stress now, to think of another reason for extension. But if he only published 2 papers, he would have completed his PhD with less stress. Just being used by the supervisor for publication. Poor Phd students...

According to Einstein, if you really know your work, you should be able to explain it to your grandmother.
Alternatively, read something about Richard Feynman. Feynman also believes that if you cannot explain to layman, it means you do not understand it yourself.

Focus on explaining to A first with simple words.


Hi ywan,

On second thought, your supervisor A is quite ok.

Firstly, he is possibly preparing you for oral examination. Imagine what if the internal examiner also comments that he or she cannot understand your presentation.

Secondly, he may consider to recommend you an academic job. Thus, he wants you to learn how to explain in idiomatic language such that most undergraduates can understand you... Have not you encountered some professors speak in certain accent and it is difficult to understand their lessons?

Thirdly, there could be internal politics within the department or between A and B and so on. For example, someone in the examination committee may purposely try to convince everyone that your presentation on your thesis is not comprehensive. Anyway, if you don't perform, it will only suggest your supervisor is not helping you enough. It is better to be positive now.


It sounds scary for me, I am just embarked in phd programme, btw, ywan459, are u doing ur phd in Germany?