Supervisor won't check my thesis. What should I do?



I am currently writing my thesis and I find that it is hard to finish my writing, partly because of the difficulty of the job itself and partly due to the fact that I know that my supervisor won't check my thesis. I know this because he didn't check my master thesis previously, he never checked any journal or conference papers that I submitted, in fact he didn't even check any of my lab mates' thesis. I would like to get some feedback in terms of technical aspect as well as english but I don't know where to get it from. I had already expressed my concern to him but his response was sort of - just write whatever you want to write, then send each chapter to journals and the introduction chapter is not important. I don't have any co-supervisor or a supervisory team that I can refer to, he is the only supervisor that I have.

So far I have tried:
1. asking my labmates to proofread my thesis- undeniably they will give some useful inputs and I'm very grateful for their help. However, I need some feedback from someone with PhD or at least a PhD student because at least he/she knows what is required in a PhD thesis.
2. to ask for help from another Prof but he told me that he's way too busy
3. to ask only few parts that I am not confident about to another Prof but he reluctantly answered my question. I tried so hard to fight back my tears.
4. to ask for help from another lecturer who has just moved to another university- previously, he told me he would help but he doesn't even reply my email now
5. to find proofreading services in the internet but they are so expensive and I think at most they can only correct my thesis in terms of english

Another option is to convert my chapters into journals and submit but it's too late to get any feedback since my submission is due in December.

I feel that everything that I write is crap. Why do I need to spend so much time and energy writing rubbish? I don't know how will I go through my viva. I'm so tired of writing and looking for support. My supervisor has been neglecting me since my masters and I'm not sure whether I can take this any longer. If I knew that this is the kind of supervision that I would get or if I know how to supervise myself or if I have already known everything, I don't have to travel thousands miles away from my hometown just to learn.

I know that many people in this forum struggle/d with the same problem and many had even finished their studies. How do/ did you guys survive?

Any advice from anyone are welcome.

Avatar for Maccle

Hi Huhu,

Something that sprung to mind on reading your post, I've noticed a few different websites recently offering 'thesis coaching', i.e a private service from someone who has completed their PhD or maybe even has supervision experience, who will go through your work with you over skype or something. I don't have any experience of it myself so can't recommend it personally, but it sounds like it might be set up to help people like yourself. I know that the guy who runs the 'three month thesis' website has a science background, so maybe see if his service appeals to you?

I don't know if that will be helpful but as I said, it just sprung to mind on reading what you said so thought I'd mention it. Apart from that though I can empathise with knowing how difficult thesis writing is, but try not to let your supervisor's unhelpfulness put you off. It sounds to me like he isn't doing his job if he's failing to support your work, but I'll leave that to others to comment if they can offer any advice or have experienced a situation like yours.

Good luck and all the best (up)


Thanks Maccle. I'll check it out.


Hi Huhu

It's your supervisor's responsibility to read your thesis, he has not excuse NOT to read your thesis.

I previously have similar experience (my supervisor didn't refuse to read, but he kept delaying for 3-6 months), I basically reported it to the department, they spoke to him, and making sure he gives feedback to my work in good time!

As you said, you have paid so much fees and even travelled so far to study, you deserve all the support that you need!


In my opinion, it is completely unacceptable for your supervisor to not read your thesis. It beggars belief.


Huhu, you poor thing - your supervisor is being absolutely unreasonable by refusing to review your thesis. That is his job for crying out loud! You have every right to be annoyed with him and complain about him because he is not fulfilling his responsibility. Isn't there someone you can speak to about this issue? I really don't know what to say except that I totally empathize with you and hope that you are able to get through this. Wishing you all the very best!


Huhu - I had a similar problem at one stage. I ended up getting the Head of Faculty involved because I was just getting desperate. It's not a step I recommend taking lightly - there's always a fine line to tread between standing up for yourself and being "that troublemaker" who can't get anyone to write them a reference - but if you're really worried about your work then you do need to protect yourself, especially in the run-up to your viva. I tried to phrase my approach in fairly neutral terms so that it didn't look as though I was attacking my supervisor directly - "Prof X told me that it wasn't his responsibility to read my work, but the student charter seems to be telling me something different. Can you clarify for me? I'm a little concerned as I'm not sure who I should be sending my work to for feedback at present..." It worked (though, true to my initial concerns, I had to take them off my CV as a referee!) Good luck!

Avatar for sneaks

my husband had the same thing - we just pulled together and tried to replicate what we thought a thesis should look like for his discipline. I proofread everything for him about 10 times and we just bit the bullet and submitted - he had one correction! So I think basically if you think it looks like others' in your field you'll probably be ok - not ideal though I know!


Hi Huhu, I'm also facing a quite similar situation but I'm doing a MPhil, not a PhD. My supervisor is nice but he became very busy after he's been appointed as the VC of my university. Now he hardly finds time to read my chapters and papers that I write. So, I've found it quite difficult but at the same time found a few other ways that support my work.
(1) Comments form progress review panel - In my university PG students have progress reviews every six months. But if we work really hard and do more work within a short period, then we can request for a review even before its six months. I had my last progress review two weeks back and planning to arrange another by end Jan 2013. The comments given by the panel was very useful, specially because the supervisor is also there. Do you have that kind of structure in the place you do PhD? If so, try to speak to the panel members about your frustration at the review itself, then your supervisor will also realise that he has not helped you to overcome those frustrations.
(2) We have formed an informal research group with other researchers in the uni. We discuss our research when we meet. Content-wise, it does not give any support, as different researchers are in entirely different fields. Nevertheless, it provides kind of a 'clarity of mind' after 'purging out' everything you have in mind about your research. Occasionally we can learn from something another researcher has implemented.
(3) Try to speak to the supervisor and tell him that you really want to meet him. And then tell him all your frustrations. I once did this and my supervisor helped me a lot after that. (Now of course he's forgotten that so I think I have to do it again.) Perhaps you can do the same.
Best Wishes for your thesis writing...


======= Date Modified 15 Nov 2012 22:25:53 =======
I had similar trouble, didn't know if or when I'd get feedback and when I did it was minimal which made me doubt my work had been read. I'm with eimeo, I didn't want to take action but knew I'd feel worse if the thesis received a fail and so I contacted the research office and had my fears recorded. Do what you must to protect yourself.


my friend had the same problem. his supervisor was kinda popular and was always out on conference sprees from one country to another.
finally, my friend couldn't stand waiting any more and visited the supervisor at his villa, with the thesis. LOL yeah, seriously.

he had a long and peaceful talk with the supervisor and before long, got the thesis checked! i don't know whether it'll work in ur situation tho.
just sharing my friend's tale :)


Hi Huhu, I had similar experience before and understand what you were saying. My primary supervisor didn't spend time reading my thesis and I doubt very much he knows what my thesis is really about. Luckily, I had a secondary supervisor who was more supportive, and in the end I did manage to submit and pass the viva. Don't give up trying, not only because it's your right to have a supervisor guide you through, also that you will rely on your supervisor to make suitable examiners choices for you, and he won't be able to do a good job if he doesn't know much about your thesis.

My advices to you would be to lead the discussion whenever you have meeting with him. Rather than waiting for him to give feedbacks, you might want to list down specific questions to ask. Pushing for his answers but be polite. Be assertive about gaining the guidance you need, but also be realistic about what your supervisor can offer you, for instance, you can't expect your supervisor to do anything about your English. Yes, proofreading cost, but I am afraid it's an inevitable cost for people whose first language is not English (I am one of them, as you can probably already tell :)

Be assertive and be polite, the last thing you want is to annoy your supervisor when you are so close to finish. Good luck.


Hi everyone.

Thanks a lot for your feedbacks. :-) :-) :-)

I had thought of consulting a senior professor (seniority is very much respected here) about this and my counselor had even asked for my supervisor's name so that she could ask the head of counselor to talk to him. But I from my previous experience, even if my supervisor checked what I had written, he just pointed out the syntax errors; and of course, the last thing that I wanted to do was to annoy him at this stage.

So the best that I could do were:

1. I still submitted my thesis to my supervisor and asked him the specific questions that I needed to discuss. But, I was not surprised at all when he told me that there was no suggestion, except for just to add the list of nomenclature; and when I asked about his opinion whether to place 'some explanation' in chapter 2 or 3, he just told me that anywhere is ok. At least I tried my best to get the most from him.
2. I asked 3 of my labmates to check the chapters which had not been sent to journals yet.
3. I managed to get one of my friends who had finished his PhD and he provided valuable inputs. It helped a lot.
4. I referred to some thesis samples in the internet.
5. I referred to thesis writing guidelines in the internet.
6. My supervisor agreed to pay (using the lab money) for the proofreading cost of my introduction and conclusion chapters, leaving me to pay for only the content chapters. And I thought that, most probably I would have only one PhD thesis in my life and I could afford to pay for the proofreading cost of the content chapters, so why not just pay for it. Once I thought that there would be someone who would correct my sentences, I was not stuck anymore and was able to continue writing until the end.

Thank you everyone! :-)


I am suffering the same problem, but I am sure if I report the case to the head of department my supervisor will take it as a personal issue and he might delay my graduation. be carful