miserable and lacking motivation


Hi All, I'm new to the forum but have reading posts for a while, and know my situation is similiar to many others, I just am getting to the end of my tether!
I am 2 years into my 3 year phd, and have done no data collection or fieldwork yet. This is mainly due to a number of setbacks as a result of my industry funded supervisor. to keep a long story short, I cannot do anything right, so everytime I feel ready to go I get told no by him. I've been accused of plagiarising him, yet at the same time not having read some of his work, and also of having a desire to ruin the company, none of which are true. I am trying to approach my work objectively but feel pushed into doing certain things in ways that will go against what I believe. My academic supervisors are supportive but at the same time see the industry partner as more of an expert than themselves in the field and so are reluctant to disagree or even discuss content.
I could go on forever, but won't bore you. Basically, having gone over the same problems several times I know the only way to change things is for me to become more assertive, and more motivated, but right now I have none of those things, as I have been pushed down so many times and feel like everything I do is wrong, so there's little point working, which is just causing me to slip further and further behind.
I am constantly waiting for the next round of horrible emails to arrive and always thinking of leaving, but I really want to work in research and love my field of study, so quitting now doesn't seem sensible, and the influence of my funder in the field may mean I struggle to get a job if I annoy him.
any thoughts or advice from anyone who's had a similiar situation??

Avatar for sneaks

I am doing a collaborative PhD and it is difficult. I reckon you aren't going to get anything done unless your organisational supervisor a) wants it done b) agrees to the methods.

My advice would therefore be to set up regular meetings between you, your academic sup and your org sup and agree on a programme of research and a timetable.

This may mean compromising your academic aims slightly, so you are doing something the industry bloke feels is relevant to the organisation. In my PhD I had no cooperation from the organisation, so I ended up having to force them to say to me what they actually wanted to look at (as it clearly wasn't the proposal) - it turned out it was nothing related to my PhD and would never be, so I've had to do reports and work for them on the side, while conducting research of my own in the organisation.

It may also help to make contact and be self-relient with other organisational members - i.e. bypass him and go and talk to members of different teams who may be interested in the research.


Thanks! It does seem a lot of people struggle with external organisations.
I think you are right, what they want is never going to be related and I feel I will end up doing the same, working on the side, as what they want is not enough to satisfy the requirements of a phd, my academic supervisors tell me this, but won't tell him! I could just go along with it and do what they want, but that is effectively consultancy work and I could / was getting paid a lot more to do that! However, I do have the problem of them threatening to withdraw the funding if I do anything that doesn't fit exactly with what they want (unfortunately I still can't figure out what that is as it seems to change all the time!)
And its a v small orgaisation, so there isn't really anybody else I can talk to who may be interested, but thanks for the advice, and good idea about setting up more frequent meetings and trying to make everything clearer.
I do know I am causing myself problems my losing confidence in my work and getting lazy because I feel there's no point working!

Avatar for sneaks

it seems from what your saying that getting your academic sup and organisational sup to meet with you - all together would be the key here. Then it won't be "he said to me that...." It also puts the organisational supervisor under a bit of pressure to provide access to data/participants etc. and not just continually block access.


Hi Ribenagirl!
Sounds really like a difficult situation. You say that you need to be more assertive and I think that is already a good starting point. Have you thought about seeing a counsellor? They can help you becoming clear about your needs and wants which ultimately will make it easier to be assertive. Besides, it is always good to just let it all out and have someone who really listens. I am not saying that you should start therapy. But hey, you have access to free counselling through the University and they are there for you and to help you sort out anything in your life that you might feel unsure about. It might be worth a try.


My advice is to go before it's too late. Sounds like a really messy situation you are in. I tried to negioate with my supervisors who knew little about my subject and was shoehorned for many years into doing something they were comfortable with. Well, it's reverse engineering for me now and thankfully found a supervisor who knows about medical anthropology.
Like you, I stayed for the security and money. You'll be surprised that the world is not as small as they want you to believe.
Good luck


Thanks everyone for your concern and useful comments.
I've had a few really productive meetings with my academic and industrial sups in the last few days... tho still not got them in the same room!
anyway, things are looking up and I have a plan so better for the time being. i still have concerns about differing expectations but, i think sneaks is right, I need to compromise slightly on my aims and also do some work "on the side" to satisfy their requirements.
hairui - you may be right, but it feels like I've come to far already! I know I haven't, and there's plenty more oppoortunities out there, but now I've made the decison to stick it out and hope its the right one!
Colourful- thanks, I'll think about it, but I don't know if I would ever feel comfortable speaking to the counsellors, I would feel like this is an insignificant problem compared to the more personal sorts of issues people must have and like I was wasting their time - whether that's true or not.

Avatar for sneaks

Glad to hear it Ribenagirl. I do urge you to set up a 'steering committee' meeting i.e. BOTH your sups and you (and any other important people - in my org I had the 'Supervisor' who was on the paper work, but was actually managed by someone more junior). Arrange a meeting for 2 months away - so they will be free - DO IT NOW!

Before I did my PhD I actually was doing research into how to make these type of research arrangements more successful and the 3 parties meeting and discussing progress, managing expectations and setting deadlines TOGETHER was one of the key predictors of a successful PhD.


I agree with Sneaks. You really need to get everyone in the same room and set out some clear aims and guidelines.

I've been having similar problems (although on a smaller scale) with writing papers. My main academic supervisor wants it to go in one direction (yet is out of touch with some of the current techniques), the post-doc I work with makes other suggestions and my TWO external supervisors both have different aims and priorities again. Getting everyone together has meant that I can almost take a step back and let them fight it out. Get everyone's opinions and aims out in the open and then formulate a plan that keeps everyone fairly happy and gets you a PhD out of it.

Keep your chin up and keep smiling. I remember going through a real downer at the end of my second year- things do get better!