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What To Do If You Have A Bad Dissertation Advisor  

You have great luck if you have a good dissertation advisor who efficiently manages your work, supports you on all levels of doing your research, and is likely to become one of your lifelong friends. Unfortunately, most likely the relations with your supervisor may be not so smooth. Some advisors seem to be completely oblivious of their responsibilities towards students, and they would be constantly busy, refuse from regular meetings, and show no interest in the students’ progress. Some others are deliberately abusive. They would do everything possible to get rid of an annoying burden. There are also advisors who are too scrupulous, who keep making unrealistic demands and make students do and redo unnecessary things. If you are one of those unlucky students, you should take all the necessary measures to successfully survive your bad advisor. The following tips will help you solve the problem:

  • Be assertive.
  • If your advisor is just a difficult person to deal with, you should do everything possible to get through to him or her. Be assertive and politely demand his or her attention:

    • Keep your advisor informed of your progress. Send emails regularly during the whole dissertation writing process.
    • Ask for help. Whenever you come to a problem, contact your advisor and ask for guidance.
    • Be creative. If you are asked to do an unnecessary task, refuse politely and try to convince your advisor to see the problem from your perspective.
  • Be easy to work with.
  • Your advisor may be just too busy to effectively mentor your work.

    • Come prepared for your meetings and bring all necessary materials with you.
    • If you are stuck at a certain point, think of the possible solutions beforehand and then share them with your advisor.
  • Be persistent.
  • Sometimes, being assertive is not enough, and you should micromanage your dissertation yourself.

    • If your advisor doesn’t return your draft for too long, send an email reminding him or her of the due date and your expenses in money and time due to this delay.
    • If you keep getting your manuscript with hundreds of corrections, hire an editor, but don’t inform your advisor of this decision.
    • If you are returned a draft with only a few corrected pages, demand that your advisor improve the rest of your dissertation as well.
  • Change your advisor.

If the conflict cannot be resolved, talk to the head of your graduate program about your problem. Explain the situation and provide all available evidence (emails from your advisor, all copies of corrected manuscripts, records, etc.) It is more than likely that you will be appointed a new advisor.

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