Supervisor Involvement


Hello, I have a strange problem for most of you I think. My supervisors think I am doing OK, and they feel that they do not need to help me out a lot. That means I need to come up with everything myself and when I ask them for comments they give me something saying ... oh you are OK. Some might ask why this is a problem, but I feel as if I am not being pushed. Also, for example now I have started writing (we need to write a mini-thesis for our Transfer and have a viva...where we go from the PhD Track to phD), whilst other students get to send them chapter by chapter of their thesis they told me. Oh you will be great. Just send us everything together. I feel as if I will be getting second rate comments, and they do not make much of an effort with me. Is anyone in this situation, and how did you deal with it?

Thank you


Sounds very like my supervisors (I've finished). I was never, ever put under pressure to produce anything for them, so I set deadlines and submitted stuff but when it was returned...eventually (usually after many months, in one case 18 months and sometimes never) the chapters most usually had a comment such as, 'this is fantastic writing' etc. Very honestly, I never received ANY criticism over the 3 years and it was just to easy as changes or suggestions were very, very rare. Quite honestly, this made me uncomfortable because I didn't (and don't) believe my stuff was read, at least not for the most part. I tried to talk to them about it but they just seemed to get upset, think I was demanding and nothing changed.

The net result was I did pass with minor corrections but the examiners flagged up much more issues with the work than my supervisors did over the course of the three years. I say minor corrections (I was given three months to do them) but they were more extensive than most on here get.

No matter what I tried (I even tried giving them deadlines to feed back to me!) I just couldn't get good feedback and so I'm not sure what the answer is but I do understand your concerns. I feel for you.


Thank you very much. I am glad to find someone who understands. I still cannot understand if they are just not interested in my project or what. Thank you for showing that it can be done and get your PhD, because I am seriously doubting myself sometimes.


Take heart, it can be done. My supervisors designed the project and so it was something they wanted done, rather than a project I wanted to do. This is why I was taken aback by their lack of feedback. I think you are doing the right thing, don't be soft soaped by kind words but try to look at your work objectively, much like the examiners will. Try to form some relationships with those around you, help them a bit if necessary, as they may help give you feedback about your work further down the line. I completely isolated myself and so couldn't call on others to help. I liked the isolation in that I couldn't draw comparisons between my progress and others progress but it meant I lacked support when I could have done with it.

It was a frustrating time but I came through it, as I'm sure you will.


Maybe you could think about changing your supervisors?


Hi Ailicec,

My supervisors are exactly the same. Every meeting I have with them lasts less than half an hour and they never ask to see anything/anything I forward they don't read. In one meeting, one of my supervisors brought the chapter I'd sent him 3 weeks before with him and started reading it in the meeting - got 2 pages in and said it looked fine! What a waste of time.

I'm now in my third year, am writing up and redrafting but feel like I'm doing it all blind to be honest. They've said not to send them anything until I have a substantial amount - i.e. 3/4 chapters at once - even then I doubt they'll read it! It's not very motivating for me either as I'm having to set my own deadlines and often lack the motivation to crack on with it.

I don't know what to suggest really - I know that raising concerns with your supervisors isn't always useful - it didn't help me! All I can say is that you're not alone. I find looking at other theses in my field quite helpful to establish structural issues etc.

Perhaps there is someone else you can find in your faculty to look at your work? Or as Delta said, maybe some peers?

Good luck anyway


Thank you very much for your support. I think hearing that other people are in the same boat really helped, and that we take the same approach. I am grateful to have a sister who did the same undergrad as me (though she has now gone on to a completely different area, but she has just finished her PhD last year) so she generally now ends up going through my work and giving me comments, which although not directly related to the area can improve my writing, since my supervisors do not. I am also trying to go down the publishing route, so that at least I get comments from reviewers. But that takes time and they will not see the whole thesis. But hoping for the best, and thank you to all.


Hi there,
I am in a very similar situation. I have discussed this with other postgrads as well as lecturers from my department and the main suggestion has been go to conferences and create your own networks. So that is my plan from now on. It may be a good idea for you too?

Good luck!


To put it simply... it sounds like they're not doing their jobs. Universities receive money for every PhD student on the understanding that they will actually spend it on providing supervision, and in return they're supposed to be held to Codes of Practice. See the general one here:
...but your own university would almost certainly have one too. You should have (again, according to the Code of Practice) an alternative contact point to discuss problems with your supervisors- it might be worth going for that and asking for a change of supervisors.


My advice to you is go and make a fuss. I had to do this and I only found out that other students received far more help than I did when I started to go to a student group set up by one of the other professors, and was very very patient. However when I did finally make enough fuss for them to realise something was wrong with my supervision and they gave me a new team (there were a few hiccoughs there too) there were so many things that needed doing I have virtually rewritten both the chapters that my previous supervisor said was really good and gave me back with few comments etc. It has put me a year behind BUT I now believe the thesis is back on track and will be much better. I was struggling to fit my research into the ideals of my supervisor (and I am sure it would have been OK as he would have chosen the 'right' external), but it was impossiblefor me to square the circle and he was just unable to see the problem. Well actually I only saw him a few times as he was always busy doing something else but sent emails - sometimes. The outcome has been positive and I wish I had done it sooner.


Thank you to all your comments. I am hoping to select a 'hard' internal examiner for my transfer viva, and therefore am hoping that I will get a push to the right direction there. Hopefully that will be done in the coming months so then I could plan ahead. I like the idea of talking to other people at conferences etc, and I will definitely try that out. Thanks again