I was working with my guide and co-guide in my phd. I don't get along with my guide but he is a very big guy in my field. Initially I used to get along really well with my co-guide and our styles match well. But for the last 6 months, he has stopped helping me. I had written a journal paper which they have not let me submit for the last 6 months. Every week, they only give feedback about the formatting style and also keep verbally abusing me that I work like a zombie and so on but not tell me how I should improve. I agree that I am not perfect but I try really hard to do my work and be sincere. Last month, my co-guide had identified a special issue of a journal where my older work fit well with a new type of data. We had less than a month to work. He asked me to work with his own student and started giving his own student more importance in terms of technical inputs. But at the end, the new student wasn't able to do much due to lack of experience and I used to work for long hours everyday despite my ill-health and just managed to finish and submit it on time. The new student didn't cooperate at all in the end and wouldn't even pick up my co-guide's calls or answer his e-mails. After the submission, my co-guide appreciated my hard work. But there was a meeting last week and both my guide and co-guide appreciated this new student a lot and didn't acknowledge me. Both of them have again started treating me like before. Before this journal submission, I was seriously thinking of trying for a phd in a new place since I have realized that my main advisor will neither help me nor let my co-guide help me. Please advise.
Ok, this is how it used to go. Every week, they would give some formatting comments and I would correct it. When I gave them the corrected version, they would give some more corrections which I used to do. Then they started shouting at me that they would give only a few corrections and it was up to me to figure out that there were more mistakes and correct them. They would also verbally abuse me that I was not motivated and so on. But as a person, I understand explicit feedback and not implicit ones. Still, I tried to give my journal draft to my other friends and got them to give feedback and tried to improve it. But this cycle took 6 months and it is still not submitted. Then my co-guide deviated me into this special issue submission and after submitting it, I am back to working on the old journal draft. When I was working for the special issue, he again became helpful and I was able to work super fast. Now, he is again listening to my main supervisor and has gone back to the abusive and ignoring mode. My main supervisor is really a busy person and he neither has the time nor wants to spend time with students. By working in a phd program, I have understood about myself that I need a lot more time, interaction and explicit feedback which he is not allowing me to get. My main supervisor has also not given me the review for an older journal paper that I wrote for the last one and half years. I was hoping that I would at least take help from my co-guide and finish my phd here. But I am not able to work with both of them being unhelpful and rude. I also tried to talk to students who were on good terms with my main supervisor to find out what I should change so that he helps me. That is why I am considering starting afresh in a new phd program.
OK so I have seen this before and I think I can see the problem. I had a colleague who had to wait more than 2 years for her papers to be reviewed by our supervisor whilst I never had to wait more than a week. Her problem is very similar to what you have described and here are my thoughts.
You are aware that you are expected to take implicit advice but you are digging your heels in that it's up to them to provide explicit advice. Worse still, you've persuaded yourself that the main supervisor is influencing the second supervisor.
When they highlight a problem in the manuscript they expect you to check the rest of the paper. That is perfectly reasonable and the fact that you are not doing this over such a long period of time and over what sounds like 3 full papers is probably frustrating the hell out of them although I am making no excuses for them verbally abusing you.
This is the root cause of the problem I think and if I am right, there's simply no point moving to another PhD program because you'll have exactly the same problem. I might be wrong, but it sounds like you are expecting others to teach you the right way to do things. If you are, this is going to be fatal for your chances of success until you change.
It sounds like your supervisors are super awful at feedback and under appreciative of you but that shouldn't be the only reason to quit. How are your supervisors excluding feedback? Does your PhD have any positives or are you close to finishing? Or how is your PhD going in general? Feedback may seem super important now but if the rest of the PhD is going well, I would try and work around it. However, if everything else is going badly, I would consider leaving.
I agree with pm133, if they give you implicit corrections you should apply them throughout the manuscript. Although I know some supervisors who are similarly awkward with paper drafts. Some supervisors are perfectionists who are never happy, so you have to submit the paper regardless of what they say. I have a friend who's supervisors cant agree and always give him conflicting corrections. My supervisors give awful feedback (very vague) and I have used the journal review process instead of relying on them. So what I am trying to say is that we all want more feedback but sometimes we have to learn somethings ourselves.
@rewt, my supervisors exclude feedback by only telling a part of the feedback of the paper and then start abusing about general stuff like I am not interested, motivated etc. This makes me feel worse and I had to push myself more and more to work. As far as my phd is concerned, I have 3 unfinished works for which they are not giving feedback to complete. My main supervisor's expectation is that I should take help from lab mates to get feedback and finish the work. I tried hard to do that but since he does that so often to students, lab mates also don't help each other since if you start helping, you won't be able to do your own work. They also scorn you and are rude to you so that you don't approach them. The senior students also work from home to avoid helping lab mates. So, as far as I understand, it is not going too well. I had also mentioned a special issue work that I did with another student of my co-guide. Though my co-guide appreciated me just after submission, when there was a lab meeting, my main supervisor only acknowledged the other student and not me. The co-guide also appreciated that guy in the meeting and not me. I find it wrong since that guy did nothing in the end. He wouldn't respond to my co-guide's calls or emails and it was left to me to finish everything. I also worked all night before submission though my health is not good. @pm133, I agree that I should learn to work with implicit feedback which is one of my weaknesses. I have already started working on it by observing the writing styles of journals and papers instead of relying on my lab mates who don't help.But the behavior of my guide and co-guide upsets me so much that I have hardly done any work this week since I feel down and demotivated.
Yeah, I know it's difficult but you need to get over your demotivation and learn to give them what they are asking from you.
Once you do that, you might find the abuse goes away.
I am more concerned about your reponse to rewt.
You now appear to be expanding your circle of blame to including your fellow students for not helping you. I have to tell you that if I was a fellow PhD student struggling with my own work and heard that you were complaining that you were failing because I wasn't helping you, we would be having a very intense conversation right now about your personal responsibility obligations.
I know this is hard to hear but I am convinced that the answer to all your problems lies in your own hands. This is a positive thing because you don't need to be looking to others for your own success.
I am still a bit lost and I should have worded my previous post better. Are your experiments working and do you have data? As if you have good results, it means your PhD is mostly going fine and you don't need to change institution (in my opinion). I personally think that getting data is the most important part of finishing a PhD, as if you have data you can write up at your leisure and it makes writing easier. Simply, good data makes writing your thesis easier. If you don't have enough data or don't have a plan to get data, you need to worry. Data is king.
Just submit a draft paper to the journal anyway. To me it sounds like you have no confidence in yourself and anxiety has taken over. It happens to all of us. You cannot let the fear of failure stop you from progressing. Most PhD students get very little feedback on their writing and learn by experience. So the only thing I can recommend is to keep trying and learn from setbacks. The journal review process can be very helpful in improving your writing and your confidence.
Thanks for your reply. I do have data and research was going fine around a year back. But the whole problem is because of the peculiarities of my main supervisor. I also believe that we can get equally good feedback from the review system. But he does not allow me to submit. When people have waited for his feedback and got fed up and submitted, he has taken revenge on them. That is where I am stuck. He neither gives feedback nor allows you to submit. This has been happening for the last one and half years. He has done that to a senior lab mate of mine and that person doesn't have a single publication despite spending 5 years in our institution. It looks like I am going to the same place. The behavior of my co-guide is also inconsistent. When things are going fine, he is friendly. But I have seen that when papers get rejected, he starts blaming you entirely though for one conference, he didn't give a review at all. This really confuses me and that is why I am considering a change of institution.
That sounds like an awful situation with your supervisor. He should not be bullying be you or your lab mates like that. If you could move to another lab/university without severely impact your studies, I would highly recommend it. Although finishing your PhD should be your main objective and if you think you can get enough data to finish on time, I would consider staying. You can always publish your work near the end or after you submit your thesis so that your supervisor has less influence. Focusing on finishing and less on publications/office politics could allow you to finish fast and be done with your supervisor that way.
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