Supervisor did not return thesis scripts...(writing stage)



Just wondering how long did it take for your supervisor to return script to you?

It has been more than 3 months now since I sent my chapters (3), but I have not heard anything from him yet.
When I asked him, he kept saying he was busy with his own publication and other research hence he didn't have chance to at my work yet.

I have actually finished the first draft for another 3 chapters (rewrite and revised many times as well!) and thinking whether I should send to him again or wait until I receive feedback from those chapters first.

I feel rather annoyed because his slow-reading attitude is really slowing down my progress, and I really have to finish PhD on time! We have discussed the writing timeline together (when to send him the script and when he should return it back to me), hoping that he will prioritise my thesis reading during the timeline that we have agreed- but it didn't happen at all.

I'm not so sure what to do now-should I send another chapter to him to "remind" him that he really need to start reading my chapter or should I wait until he returns at least one script to me?

I am actually writing my conclusion chapter now and it is really weird as I have yet revised other chapter based on my supervisor's comment yet.

But I have revised and rewrite other chapters many times that I don't know what else to revise anymore.

Any advice?



Do you have supervision with him? Can you mention it then? Do you have a team of supervisors? Can you ask them? Are there any guidelines at your university for how long supervisors should take to review your work?

To me, 3 months is more than adequate to review chapters. I would send a very polite email asking if he had a chance to review your chapters yet and whether he had any feedback that he could give you. I would also remind him that you are working to a deadline and you would appreciate his input. I'd also include a bit about "appreciate you are very busy but really value your input on this" blah blah blah!


Thanks Lindalou- I have asked him about it during supervision meeting, but he kept telling me "sorry sorry, I will look at it as soon as I finish bla bla bla).

He also does not have a deadline in mind, he feels I should revise it until he is happy then only I can submit- I had a quite intense argument with him about this (about the deadline issue)- but he has put his foot down (and told me no more negotiation about this)

I have tried to ask other thesis panels to read my chapters, but they are busy as well (as they have their own supervisees and commitments) and told me my supervisor should be the one who read it.

There is no guidelines about how long supervisors should take to review our work, the general advice is "keep writing and revising, don't wait for your supervisor".

Really quite annoying :-(


Hmm well it doesn't sound good to me. The deadline thing I can definitely sympathise with, my sups don't seem to understand that I cannot go beyond the funding despite me having discussed it with them several times. You might need to consider taking this higher. I was reading through someone else's thread on this forum and this website was recommended (I can't remember who it was off the top of my head so apologies to the person who originally posted):

Look under "difficult students" and then at Georgina, it describes the process for complaint. If he's the one saying he needs to comment on your work before you submit, he should be giving you some feedback! I would be suspicious that he's trying to delay you for some reason.

p.s. I'm sorry if my original post sounded a bit patronising, it's just I didn't realise you had tried a few avenues already!


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Hi Human,

Sorry you're in that situation - I can imagine how frustrating it must be! I agree with Lindalou's advice - try see what your options are, but email him in the meantime. If you have more chapters ready to be read then I think I would attached one in an email and I'd include something like this:

''I realise you are currently reading through my chapter X, Y, Z, but I have attached chapter P. I was going to wait until I had received feedback on X, Y, Z, but I thought you might prefer to consider the four of them as a group.''

He sounds quite resistant, but I think sometimes you can will someone into doing things simply by describing the process to them... If he's not ''currently'' reading your work, he may move it up his to-do list. Also, I like to describe things as though I'm trying to do them a favour ''thought you might prefer...''
Good luck!


Sorry to hear what you're going through. There's a professor in my department who is "famous" for this sort of thing. Fortunately he wasn't my supervisor.

I think you have to be really adamant and unrelenting. Do you live close enough to campus that you can start dropping in on him every day, and confronting him in person every single day? Let his guilt get the better of him. If you can't be there in person, start leaving phone and email messages (note the plural) every day. Of course, always be polite, but persistent. It's not rude. Actually, he's the one being rude.

You should probably keep a log of every exchange - via email, phone, and in-person - just in case you need this as evidence should you have to make a formal complaint against him in the future.


Hello Human, understand what you are going through as my sup. is a bit 'slow reading'/'too busy' as well ...
As Lughna said, I would just send him an email saying :
"Dear XX, I have just finished Chapters X, Y, Z. Would you like me to send them to you now or do you need more time to finish the other ones I gave you 3 months ago ?" :p Ah ah, my message might be a bit 'tough' but he needs to realise he is taking too long !!!

Good luck !!


Dear all

I really thank you deep down from my heart for these advices and links- it has given me some hope that I might be able to "push" him to read my thesis by your suggestion. I will try your suggestions.

Thanks very very much!


Hi Human,

I would say that so long as you have other stuff still to write up you just need to keep politely reminding him at regular intervals and sending him the work as you complete it. Once you've given him every chapter then you can go to him and say "look, you have every chapter, I can do nothing until you give me feedback." It probably won't get that far though. Just make sure he can't claim that you either haven't been getting on with stuff or that you haven't reminded him or anything else like that. He might well end up giving you back 4 or 5 chapters of stuff in one go when he finally gets round to it.


Dear all

There is an update about this issue and I would like to seek some advice from you.

My supervisor is still NOT reading my thesis, and the reason that he uses now is he will wait until I submit a publication, and revise the chapters based on the publication comment. He thinks the comment that I receive for my publication is sufficient enough to revise my PhD chapter that I sent to him.

The problem is the publication that I intend to submit is only ONE chapter of my Phd thesis. I asked him whether he could at least read the chapters and give some comments so that I can revise it based on the publication comments and more specific comments to the chapters. He refused the idea.

Please note that the current publication that I'm revising is a manuscript that I intend to submit last year June, the delay was due to he kept changing his mind about what should be included in the publication and he was also very slow of returning the manuscript to me.

His conditional requirement for reading my thesis sounds rather unreasonable to me. I understand the comment that I receive from the reviewers are probably similar with the examiners who are going to read my thesis, but he has no reason not to read my other chapters until I publish something. What if I can't publish anything successfully? does it equally mean I will fail my phd? Also, I have no idea how long more to take to get something published particularly he is very slow in returning script to me. What if I'm not planning to do anything in academic so publication meant nothing to me. At this point, I rather complete my PhD first then only worry about publication.

But it's completely different from his point of view as the publication has his name on it. And I understand all faculties require to have certain amount of publication per xx year so the publication means a lot to him.

I really think he simply uses lots of excuse not to read my thesis and he is trying to make the excuse sounds reasonable.

Can I get some advice what I should do next :-(


Hi Human,

Sorry to hear you're still having problems with this. I think you now need to think about whether you want to take this higher, as this guy sounds like he's either too busy to supervise you properly or too lazy to read your work. Either way, you need to approach someone within the university, either the registry or a pastoral tutor if you have one to talk about it.

I can understand that submitting an article will gain some feedback, however this can often take months and you don't have months and months to wait. Is he going to make you do this every time you want him to review a chapter? I think perhaps it may well be worth another email stating that you can see where he's coming from with the journal feedback however you're concerned about the length of time this will take. Ask him when he plans to give you his own feedback.

May I ask, and apologies if you've already said, where you are in your studies? Are you funded or self funding?


p.s. no supervisor should be putting conditions on reviewing your work, this is ridiculous! Don't let him get away with it! Supervision is not conditional - if they don't want to do supervision then they shouldn't be a supervisor! Grr this has annoyed me!


Hi Human, I am sorry to hear that you are being delayed by your supervisor. I do not have anything else to say in addition to the wise advice of others below. It is really hard when supervisors can be totally indifferent at such a crucial stage. There is no way he/she can insist you to just wait and work on the comments of the reviewer. I hope you get this sorted soon. I send you good luck! (gift)


Cinderalla:Thanks for the good luck

Lindalou83: I'm partially funded by my supervisor. I will try to talk to someone higher, don't think it's worth to email him about this again. Recently he had an issue about I'm not revising the script according to this comment. But I DID- I copied and pasted that part from the scripts to prove that I did. He feels offended and says it's my fault for not making it stand out- I was like, "what the hell you mean- I highlighted the part that I changed based on your comments, and you can see it from the track change- what do you mean I didn't make it clear?!" - he obviously didn't read it!!

Really stepping on my nerves- never admit mistakes!


I think you need to talk to someone about this now, try and find out what there is in the way of help for you at your university. And good luck!