is this normal?


I feel really bad about ranting, but I'm starting to feel really bad about my PhD, to the point where I struggle to get up in the mornings. I have my first year review due in a few weeks (actually I'm in my second year, but the review was delayed) and my supervisor won't give me any help with it because he doesn't have time / wants to encourage ownership of my own work. I don't think he even wants to read the form before I send it off, even though it represents 1/3 of the time I've spent on PhD. I feel like I'm literally scraping myself along the bottom of my PhD right now, I am really, really hurt by my sup's behaviour and it makes me struggle to ask for help. I feel like I'm going to be judged as being needy and inadequate if I ask for support. But with a document that includes a draft thesis structure and aims and objectives, I feel really upset that my sup is too busy to even care what I write. I could put down anything and have no idea if it's wrong or not. I've emailed my other supervisor several times and had no reply. I feel bad bitching about my sup because he started off being so supportive. There feels like so much pressure to be strong, driven, independent. Questions that would be perfectly valid and normal in any other workplace are treated like heresy, personal qualities that might be praised and encouraged are treated as if the worst defects in the world. And it's all so unspoken, just subtle sarcasm and invisible hierarchies. What bugs me is that I thought this place would be different. I feel as if it's just me being feeble and weak. What I hate is that everyone always thinks I'm the strong one, or even that I'm unbearably invulnerable and tough, but I feel like I'm falling apart. I agonise whether to just send an email or ask a question, and when I do I feel swamped by stupidity. How can I stand another two years of feeling so alone??

Avatar for sneaks

this is completely normal, so don't panic.

I'm sure others have better words of advice, but for now, I'd keep in mind that its the start of term, he's probably thinking "oh my god, I have SO much stuff to do, all these lectures to give and new students trying to crash my office every 10 mins, I'm so glad that CloverCloud is independent and has been able to get that document off"

He could also be a like a lot of supervisors who don't really care about the 'procedure' type of stuff and do the bare minimum to keep in line with uni regulations, but get bored by forms etc.


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deleted -- excessive whinging and self-pity......


arrrghh but then I think about it and feel guilty about it all, he's got an enormous amount to focus on. Why should anyone do my research for me? The problems and threads with my thesis are exactly what I need to figure out myself, and go to HIM when I've actually overcome those problems. maybe it's just self-doubt that makes me want approval BEFORE I do something. maybe.

I feel really guilty now :(

Avatar for DrCorinne

You shouldn't feel guilty, your feelings are simply human!

There are some blessed people who have supportive supervisors throughout, but most of us go through the same problems at some point.

I used to send the draft of the report to my supervisor, but I never had feedback on them. Equally, I used to send monthly reports on what I was up to, and never got a reply. Retrospectively I can say: "No news, good news", but back then, I was terribly annoyed, hurt, and frustrated.

Nonetheless I got to the end, I got my doctorate, and if I could get to the end, so can you. Believe me.

It's certainly not an experience for faint-hearted. It requires a good dose of determination, perseverance and ability to navigate through rough seas.

You slowly learn to cope with the uncertainties that this kind of work poses, by yourself, and it is incredibly rewarding.

Be confident: You know your own topic. Write your report and e-mail it to both your supervisors "just to let them know" - do so a few days before the deadline - and see what response arrives from them.

Then go the interview with confidence - if there is anything wrong I am sure that your sup will get back in touch with you before then. So go there and knock them all out!


Just try your best CloverCloud...


======= Date Modified 30 Sep 2011 13:49:32 =======
======= Date Modified 30 Sep 2011 13:47:43 =======
I also think you should re-calibrate your perspective on the annual review. Rather than regarding the review panel as a firing squad eager to place you in their sights, you should consider the review a forum to work through any problems you may have constructively and put you back on track.

In my first year I tended to interpret constructive comments as negative responses to my work, but as time passed I grew to realise that they were actually very helpful, preventing me from making problematic claims and helping me place tighter parameters on my research. In other words, while initially daunting, the review process will likely prove extremely helpful in the long run.

At the very least you will have a good idea of how the department views your progress at the end of the review, helping you to assess your progress and move on. I hope that helps put some of your fears to bed.


It's totally normal - I felt like this at the start of the second year and seriously considered quitting, but I didn't and I'm so glad I didn't! It is the beginning of a new academic year and your sup will be very, very busy with freshers, returning undergrads etc so don't feel too put out. At the end of the day the break through for me was realising that it was MY project, MY responsibility, and at the end of the day it will have MY name on it - so I guess this goes back to ownership. Does your university have a set of guidelines for the review? This should include what you need, at my university we have a research registry unit who are really helpful and can also guide you through the process.

And remember - you're not alone! There's loads of us PhD students out here! And we're always willing to help or just support each other :-)