When supervisor is less ambitious than student


From my point of view as the student, I felt right from the outset that we could publish up to 4 papers from my work. My supervisor thought may be 2 at best. Then I was bubbling with enthusiasm for an oral presentation at an international congress. She decided we settle for a poster. The latest was a draft manuscript which I was raring to submit as a full-length article. She asked that I re-draft it as a short communication. Over time my balloon has been inevitably deflated. Isn't this a case of reversed roles?


Maybe she is being realistic? If she was being discouraging, she wouldn't be supportive towards your suggestions to present at all. Surely you don't have to listen to her, but if I was you I'd trust her experience. You'll need your energy for your research. Deliver one or two good papers instead of four mediocre ones, and concentrate on finishing your PhD. Good luck with all... (up)


My supervisor is the same. He reminds me constantly that I shouldn't worry about having my thesis published, that my PhD doesn't define me blah blah. I find it all a bit uninspiring to be honest...


Hey! That is a little bit odd, did she give you any reasons for these suggestions? You would think most supervisors would want to push their students! My supervisor is completely the opposite, and is probably a bit too ambitious. I am flattered by her faith in me but feel a bit overwhelmed by her expectations (she is anticipating 8 publications from my PhD- I mean who does that many publications from their PhD? She is crazy!). Is there any way you could have a word with her, find out if she has particular concerns that underlie her suggestions, but let her know that you really want to aim high? Best, KB


Not crazy - I got 8 publications out of my PhD (5 journal articles and three book chapters!)


Cool Zelda! Well that will give me something to aspire to then! Did you get them all done before submission? I can see where the 8 publications would come from, (2 reviews, 1 theoretical paper, I qual results paper, 3 quant results papers, and a discussion paper), but it's the whole getting them completed before submission that seems a bit crazy! But she seems to have faith in me so I will do my best! KB


Thanks guys for sharing, well I guess a cookie crumbles its own way. It is as an example of the factors one cannot control in their PhD but neither shall I be trying too hard to as I am really on homestretch. I shall manage 2 articles and a short commn  - a minimum PhD - but a PhD anyway. Have an ambitious year pals.


I am 1.5 yrs in. My sup never pushes, is tremendously ambitious but likes suggesting the opposite of what I propose just to see how strong my convictions are.

I know her by now!

I have 2 reviews, 1 theory paper, 1 theory paper with sup, 1 empirical paper under review, 1 mini comm (3k words). Am submitting my 3 empirical chapters (writing now) to journals quite a bit before thesis submission, over this year and early next. I have far too many conference presentations and will cut some out of the CV.

*but* this is highly unsual in my dept and field.

I do not think your sup is unambitious,. they are worried correctly about thesis completion, are trying to set reachable targets and not be pushy.

Supervision involves both inspiring and restraining I think


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KC, thanks. I too felt exactly the same when I read your posts on the accountability thread (the one for secodn years...). ITs kind of why I kept away despite starting it, got a teensy bit scared, cos I dont do half as much in a day. you put in 10 hrs recently or something? I never ever can!

As for this particular post, uhm, I think I was trying to mirror Keenbean's calculations (KB spoke of reviews etc) so I too was thinking alous how KB's sup is calculating not entirely worngly despite sounding ambitious. I.e. its unusual but poss although not needed truly.

These are my two clarifications. I'm sure you're right in the way you interpreted my post/s and am sure many will agree :)

Best, bug.


Haha, now I'm getting scared cos I was happily thinking my sup was a bit crazy with her suggested number of papers and now some people reckon that it's not actually that crazy! I had never heard of anyone getting more than about 3-4 papers submitted for publication before submission of the thesis so it sounded a bit overly-ambitious when she suggested 8. I suppose the 8 papers thing isn't entirely crazy but getting them all done before submission sounds like a tough task. Oh well, I guess for all of us it's about prioritising, balance, aiming high but not being unrealistic, and also recognising that different people have different priorities and there are also different expectations in different fields with respect to publishing and so on. At the end of the day all we can do is try our best and see where it gets us, no-one can say fairer than that! Best, KB


Thanks for being great Bug and I'll be more careful on the accountability thread (although I must say I was only bigging stuff up to make myself feel better!)



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Ideally, a person should be able to produce 5 good papers out of a PhD.
1. A literature review paper.
2. A short communication styled paper.
3. A conference paper.
4-5: two full-length papers.

Even though it's important to produce high quality papers, the present assessment system in academia focuses on the number of papers produced, rather than the quality, especially for young academics. The best thing for you is to wait until you finish the PhD, and then submit the papers on your own, just giving your supervisors appropriate credit as co-authors, without the need to show it to them even. If it works, there is no harm, and if it got rejected, you will take the blame.

Probably the reason why she is not convinced of you writing full-length papers is that writing papers take a very long time, and this might your disturb your research (her research grant too!). I know this sounds selfish, but many academics are like that. Some academics are too arrogant, and they don't accept criticism from reviewers. I have known a professor who wouldn't accept to make any changes in his papers if suggested by the reviewers to get it published!!