Supervisory question


I'm just hoping for a bit of advice, please.
I started my PhD 6 months ago, but feel a bit lost. I see my supervisor every few days, but these meeting are always very short and impromptu and we only discuss exactly what I am doing at that point. I have never had a planned, scheduled meeting where we discuss the outline of the PhD, the plan for the next few months, weeks, days etc. I really want to be productive and make some progress but I am wasting a huge amount of time because I don't know what I should be working on.

I would really love a scheduled meeting once every fortnight or so, when we could discuss what I should work on and then I could just get on with it rather than wasting days at a time hanging around looking for him. I want to take control of my work and be more independent but it is not possible when I don't know what he has planned for the group, what equipment he has ordered, what grant applications he has made etc.

Do you think I should just come out and ask for this? I am worried it could come across as rude, when it is clearly not his style to supervise like this, and he is probably not aware there is a problem. Or should I just try to get more information out of him when I do see him?

Any advice very gratefully received!


Hi Cupcake,

I would just pretty much copy and paste what you wrote here and send it in an email to him. Just politely ask if you could have structured meetings every fortnight where you can take minutes and set fortnightly goals/tasks. You sound like you would benefit greatly from that. Even better might be just to knock on his door and ask face to face; that way you can't come across as rude.

Good luck! Let us know how it goes.


Yeah, I think you should just ask and explain that you really appreciate his time but would rather channel it into a regular fortnightly slot if it would be possible, so that you can set goals etc and keep things structured. The other thing I find is if I bump into my supervisor in the day, she is often busy and distracted, although she does try to be helpful. When I have her to myself for supervision meetings she is a lot more focused and this way I can go in there with a list of everything I want to ask or want feedback on and know that by the end of the meeting I will have it all sorted! Definitely the way forward IMO! Best, KB


Hi Cupcake,

I agree with the previous comments - I am/was in exactly the same situation as you. My supervisor is around a lot, we get on well, we chat in passing, but we didn't actually sit down and talk about what I needed until I'd been officially doing the PhD for five months. I explained to her that I need the structure that regular meetings will give me, and I need her to ask me to do things (draft chapters, notes on methodology etc). It seems to be going okay so far.

Your supervisor is probably waiting to find out what sort of student you are - whether you need guidance or are happy to pootle along on your own. Just be honest about what you feel you need (and have a list!).

Hope it all goes well,



Thanks so much for the advice.

Well, after getting extremely nervous about it all, I asked if it would be possible to have regular meetings...and he replied that he thought that would be "an excellent idea" - couldn't believe it! Anyway, we set a date for the following week, and I was very relieved. However, a few days later, he sent an email out to me and the other PhD student in the group, letting us know that we would be having group meetings, and that the first one would be on the same day/same time that we had planned to have the meeting. So, my supervisory meetings seem to have turned into group meetings. Ok, we are a very small group (3!), and I think it is really good that we do have some sort of group meeting every now and then to make sure we are still communicating, but I really wanted to be able to discuss MY PhD - preferably without the other PhD student there.

I just don't have any idea where my PhD is going - his ideas seem to change every week, and they are always ideas for 'the group' rather than for my PhD or for the other student's PhD. For example, he will tell me about one experiment that I will be doing, and then later it turns out that he has asked the other student to do it instead (this is always happening). It would just make it so much easier if tasks were officially divided up so we know who is responsible for what.

I just really want to have some structure and plan for my PhD, and to be able to discuss MY work, and MY scientific development, privately. Do you think I should go back and ask for this, or am I expecting too much?

Sorry for the mammoth post (and for ranting!) - this is all just really stressing me out, and I'm feeling very uncertain of my actual chance of completion when I don't know what to complete!


Hi Cupcake,

You are not asking for too much at all. Again my advice would be to just discuss this with your supervisor. Tell him that you feel this way and you would like some one on one meetings to discuss YOUR project. Just say that as you are still in your first year you need a bit of extra guidance. That is his job afterall... to supervise and help you in whatever way you need.