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This Category: > PhD Advice / Support


Hurt by supervisors comments, is this normal?

User: Littlealien2020 - 01 December 2020 09:40

Hi, just found the forum. I am nearing the end of a funded phd, and currently writing up, hoping to submit by end of March.

I have never found my supervisors particularly friendly but that's absolutely fine. However just recently everything I send to them comes back with comments which I am stupidly finding really hurtful. I have three first author publications so have always felt that I am doing - if not well, at least OK. But I am really feeling that I am taking two steps forward and one back right now if that makes sense. And it's so ridiculous of me but their comments are really getting to me. I can work for hours at a chapter and it comes back with - still needs lots of work, not clear, etc etc.

I guess I just want to know - is this normal or does it sound like I am doing really badly? Covid has really impacted on my tiny little cohort of phd colleagues - one has left, two are off on Mat leave and the other has gone home to their own country so am feeling a bit isolated as well.

Thanks to anyone who has bothered to read so far!

User: qsmrf56 - 01 December 2020 11:17


Hope you are well.

I understand how frustrated and hurtful it must have been to receive comments that are critical in nature especially when you are not expecting it. However I do understand that their comments hurt you but it would be best for you and your PhD journey if you could just ask your supervisor where you can potentially improve maybe communicating with them is the best way to go as it may allow you to get some answers.


User: iamagrape - 01 December 2020 21:09

Hey there, just wanted you to know you are not alone. I finished my PhD earlier this year, but prior to that, especially during thesis writing, there were numerous times I got hurt by my supervisor's very blunt comments. Just to give a few examples, I got comments like "even an undergrad would know this", "over-dramatisation" (referring to a neutral - at least in my opinion - description of results that I wrote) whilst writing up. Even got said to my face "I believe you did nothing at all throughout the year" when I returned from a year-long placement. Thinking back, apart from my placement year, I was bombarded with comments like for pretty much the whole length of my PhD. I normally couldn't even worked for at least half a day after reading my supervisor's comments/feedback, as they were very demoralising and discouraging...but well you know, things like this, they happen. I don't want to say it's a thing that you have to go through, or should go through, but if you just persevere for a bit, you'll reach the end :) that is all it matters. And don't let those comments define you - PhD is just a part of your life

User: MALVOR87 - 02 December 2020 13:54

Firstly, well done you getting to this point, that is an achievement in itself. I think some supervisors maybe are not good at self awareness and realising that it is ok to give constructive criticism but how it is done is another matter! I was told by my supervisor when I was less than 3 months into my 1st year and my initial confirmation viva report came back to me repeatedly (way to knock your confidence, right!!) that when you are wanting to get published, the feedback is brutal and do not take it personally - maybe this is why supervisors do this, or there maybe many other reasons, who knows?

You aren’t going to change them, you can only control your thoughts/reaction to what they say. You know how far you’ve come and how good you are, don’t lose sight of that. Try to think that they are doing this to get the best from you and make your thesis as good as it can be.

Im not saying it’s easy, it’s definitely not.

Good luck.

User: Littlealien2020 - 03 December 2020 10:08

Thank you to everyone who has replied, you have really helped me to feel I am not alone. All your comments have been so lovely and helpful. I guess I just need to keep going. Thank you so much again x

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