Supervisor too busy


Does anyone have any advice about what to do in this situation. I guess it's pretty common. My supervisor has told me he is too busy to look at my work or meet me, but I have my upgrade exam coming up shortly. He did make one comment about something that I should add to my report, but to do so would require lots of extra work that I don't have the time to do now and I don't really understand what he even meant fully. There's no way that I can ask him for clarification though as he's too busy. I just feel so helpless and stuck, but it's not like I can demand a meeting with him. I'm I being unreasonable and is this quite normal supervisor behaviour?


Hey Greent! Is this a regular occurrence or is he just really busy at the moment? To be honest, I don't think it's fair to take students on if you don't have time to meet them or even look at their work, but I guess all supervisors have their stressful and busy times and have a lot of pressure on them coming from all directions. If it's just a one-off then I suppose you'll just have to deal with it as best you can for now, but if this is how things are permanently then you might have a more serious problem. Do you have a second supervisor who might be able to comment on your work or give you feedback? Or if not, could you appoint an extra supervisor who might have more time for you? If this is a long term problem then I think that you should speak to your chairperson/director of PhD studies/whoever is the relevant person and see if you can get someone extra on board. Will your sup not even reply to an email to clarify what he wants changing? Best, KB


Just new to the forum here and I can understand your predicament. My supervisors have been absent and no help throughout most of my research (to be honest they were useless anyway).

In my experience supervisors say something to you no matter what just in order to make themselves look smart. They have to look as if they are in control and on top of the situation so no matter how good anything is. They will always make some ridiculous suggestion. Academics have massive egos and have to say something. The vague throwaway comment is a perfect strategy for them.
If you don't understand what this person meant and it's going to take a lot of work to put it together anyway, then I would suggest you just ignore it.

Similarly is this "too busy" thing a recent development? How have you gotten on with your supervisor up to now?

Sorry for seeming so dismissive about the guy - I don't know the situation. One thing I do know for certain though - academics are selfish, ego-maniacal lunatics!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Whether it's normal behaviour depends on your supervisor's idea of normal - is this typical for him? It's typical of many supervisors particularly those high up the ladder who have no interest in your work and just want students to make themselves look good, get more data or get time off teaching etc!!!

But then again you get some decent supervisors who are actually helpful and supportive of their students! These are less common though do exist so if you get hold of one (doesn't matter if they're your supervisor or not - if they are willing to help keep hold of them!)

Have you a second supervisor or somebody else in the dept who can help! Unfortunately your case all sounds too familiar and there is not really much you can do! The dept will more than likely let him get away with it so as not to ruffle any feathers as long as he is bringing in researching funding/raising the profile of the dept by doing funding!

Good luck with your upgrade - if they give you a hard time kick up a fuss and say you're not getting adequate supervision as the dept hates looks bad for them! (up)


Thanks for all your advice everyone. I did manage to meet with him in the end, but he just made me feel worse and I ended up spending a crazy few days working all hours trying to get the work done that he had suggested. The upgrade panel 'highly commended' this work in the event though, so maybe he does know what he's talking about (unless he had some behind the scenes insight into what the panel was after as it did seem to come out of the blue!). I passed and it was all fine though, so maybe I just need to get on with it and stop listening to him! He made me laugh yesterday by instructing me to do something that I myself had suggested last time I met him, but passed it off as his own idea! I think you're right Sharkbit, maybe it's part of the job description to have a big enough ego to be able to declare things in such an assertive way that they sound completely authoritative and sensible even when they're total rubbish! Ah to have that confidence and not to worry all the time that every word that comes out of my mouth will expose how stupid I secretly am!


It just goes to show that your supervisor's crazy and Sharkbait's point is proven!

But I agree with you on the confidence thing - I think that's half the battle! I think you've hit the nail on the head!

:p (up)