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Advisor doesn't want me to graduate? Giving me extra work


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Hi guys,

I was not sure where to post this so here I am. So I've been originally admitted as PhD student and then I switched to Master's because of a number of reasons. And I was supposed to graduate last semester but I asked my advisor and supervisor to give me 1 more semester if that is possible so I could add few more things to my research and also look for jobs. They agreed and they defined some tasks for me so I finish those to graduate. Now, here I am, 1 month 10 days left till my defense date and they ask me to do some additional stuff which wasn't really planned. And I'm really concerned that I haven't really started writing my thesis and also I feel like it's a lot of work for Master's, why am I getting Master's then? they should grant me with PhD then consider the amount of work. And I know why they want me to do that extra stuff because the situation with funding in my department got really tough and they're all really afraid of not being able to continue this research and not being able to hire some student to take over this and besides, there is some local company that got interested that what I've been working on but I'm 100% sure that they're not gonna invest any single penny coz they're very small and they wanted their stuff to be done for free.

So anyway, I'm trying to decide on how should approach this situation? how do I talk to my advisor and supervisor? Should I really be kinda like stubborn and stand for I think is right or should I try to be polite and agree on whatever they want me to do but also try to somehow find some compromise, or should I agree to do everything they want me to do completely?

Just to give the context, we're all international: my advisor and supervisor are from the same middle eastern country, I'm from different country. My problem is I've already applied for OPT (work authorization), once my I-20 expires which the end of this semester, I cannot enroll for one more semester, so I must graduate, I feel like they don't understand that or smth

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4 hours ago, oqowa said:

Hi guys,

I was not sure where to post this so here I am. So I've been originally admitted as PhD student and then I switched to Master's because of a number of reasons. And I was supposed to graduate last semester but I asked my advisor and supervisor to give me 1 more semester if that is possible so I could add few more things to my research and also look for jobs. They agreed and they defined some tasks for me so I finish those to graduate. Now, here I am, 1 month 10 days left till my defense date and they ask me to do some additional stuff which wasn't really planned. And I'm really concerned that I haven't really started writing my thesis and also I feel like it's a lot of work for Master's, why am I getting Master's then? they should grant me with PhD then consider the amount of work. And I know why they want me to do that extra stuff because the situation with funding in my department got really tough and they're all really afraid of not being able to continue this research and not being able to hire some student to take over this and besides, there is some local company that got interested that what I've been working on but I'm 100% sure that they're not gonna invest any single penny coz they're very small and they wanted their stuff to be done for free.

So anyway, I'm trying to decide on how should approach this situation? how do I talk to my advisor and supervisor? Should I really be kinda like stubborn and stand for I think is right or should I try to be polite and agree on whatever they want me to do but also try to somehow find some compromise, or should I agree to do everything they want me to do completely?

Just to give the context, we're all international: my advisor and supervisor are from the same middle eastern country, I'm from different country. My problem is I've already applied for OPT (work authorization), once my I-20 expires which the end of this semester, I cannot enroll for one more semester, so I must graduate, I feel like they don't understand that or smth

My advice is to take care of your interest (finishing your studies in the deadline that is important to you) while in the same time trying not to completely destroy the relationship you've built with your advisor and supervisor. How to do that? Well that depends on the specifics of your contextual situation. 

1. Do you have enough material to start writing your thesis? If the answer is YES then start writing and start sending drafts of your chapters to your supervisor. They will anyhow need time to read and review them so include their time in your plan! (Also, plan additional time for revisions in your provisional time table!) If, on the other hand, the answer to this question is NO then first write a draft of the thesis. Maybe it's required by your university, maybe not but it will help you. In it include what you already know and don't yet know but anticipate - possible research questions, methodology and the data that you have. If possible include the hypothesis or/and conceptual framework and possible outcomes of your research (obviously adapt and expand this according to your scientific background, area, field...). And ask for their comments. In any case start writing - it's your job to write your thesis and it's important for you to dive into it as soon as possible because it is just not possible to see all potential obstacles or challenges before you even begin to write. 

2. While they are busy with reading and reviewing your drafts you will be waiting and will very probably have time to do your work on the research. These wholes are also the time that you could use to do that additional work they are asking from you. I hope that work is at least somehow important for your own research - if that's the case with time you'll see how much of it you can really do, and how much you just can't. 

If at some point you notice that it is all being dragged for far too long, take a more firm approach and start asking for more frequent in person consultations. Come with ready questions and suggestions.

This is going to be a very stressful and busy period but as you said you have plans and they seem very legitimate to me. 

Hope I helped. Hope others will add their advice as well :)

Good luck 🤞🏻 

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Thanks for the reply!

The thing is every time I told them about writing the thesis, they would be like "aah for thesis just put your papers together, you know how I wrote my thesis? I just put my papers together, the main thing is is the paper, focus on the paper". On one hand, I guess it's good for me that they think that way coz it would give me basically "permission" to almost copy-paste my paper(s) into the thesis, on the other hand, it kinda makes me worried that they don't take my thesis serious. So I guess I should not expect them to push me to write it the way they've been pushing me to write a paper.

Edited by oqowa
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Now, I need your guys advice/perspective on the worst case scenario:

I have been thinking if things get wrong somewhere on the way, what are the possible options? I've actually talked to the graduate program coordinator or advisor (not sure what the exact title is, but she basically helped me a lot in the past on deciding which classes to take and stuff, almost like advising). So she told me that in the worst case scenario, probably, graduate program director would have to call a meeting with someone outside (not from my master's commitee), there would be probably meetings between me, graduate director, someone not from my committee and probably advisor and we would try to settle this. Now this doesn't seem to answer the scariest question I have in my mind — for example, at the end of the whole story, can I somehow end up with nothing? no master's?

Here are few more things to give you more context:

1) I've been granted the award for the best TA of the department, my evaluations were really high. And I have 1 conference paper so far. None of the prev people that worked with my advisor had anything published (God, he had 2 postdocs but they left without publishing anything!)

2) My advisor is young and new and so far, he had only 1 student graduating with him and guess what? they guy did his MS with him and was supposed to continue his PhD with him, but right after he got his Master's, 1-2 months after the new semester started, he decided to change his advisor. And it's not like they talked and agreed, but he actually went and complained about this guy and he didn't care about loosing the funding and fortunately, the department helped the guy to make some money through grading job, I guess his tuition was covered too and now he finally has an advisor.

 

Possible solutions I have in my mind but I have no idea whether these would work or not:

1) The third member of my commitee seems to be a nice person and he is the one who actually hired these other two(my adviser and supervisor). His nationality is the same as mine but all his life he lived in the same country as these two did. Not trying to judge or give myself hope, but this guy, so far, never really pressured me, he even once came telling me in a casual way "why don't you wanna stay for phd? see, you've done a lot of work for master's, you're almost there". So in the back of my mind, I'm thinking maybe, God forbid, if things go wrong, I should first talk to him so he could somehow settle the argument. These people are from middle east (technically, I'm from there too tbh) and I know their mentality is that if you go and complain about us without actually talking to us, then you're a traitor! So I guess maybe I should try talking to this man if things go wrong.

2) If I somehow "secretly" write my thesis and have some text ready by the required time (but can't defend because my adviser wants me to do smth extra), is there any way for me to change my advisor and ask the department to let me form a different commitee so I could defend and graduate? The only problem is the code I've been using this semester belongs to my supervisor but I've added a lot of my own stuff into it, however, there is some other code that I've built myself from the scratch and used it till this semester.  Technically, I think I could find a way of not using "their stuff" in my research but it might be a bit time-consuming. But I don't know, maybe it would still be okay, because in my thesis I would be showing only results not "their" tools I used to generate them.

 

P.S. I really apologize for really messed up grammar/spelling/syntax, I was just in a rush writing all this

Edited by oqowa
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@oqowa I can totally relate to your situation. My 2 advisors in the department where I based my PhD studies in were like yours, i.e. focusing on publishing way more than my thesis. (Read my previous posts and you will know.) They had me to do an impossible-to-do experiment while writing up my thesis. It's an experiment that is indeed technically impossible to do, but they stubbornly insisted on that. In a sense, they wanted me to not graduate so I could continue to work for them for free, as they were running out of money. I was having a hard time, but fortunately I have another advisor in another department, whom I rarely met. I think I met him once a month at most back then. I brought that up to him when we discussed one of the thesis chapters. To my surprise, he stepped in and got them to (reluctantly) agree with thesis first. Of course, I suffered quite badly from retaliation. At one point, I got yelled at and forced to choose between them and my life-saving advisor.

I am sharing my experience to let you know that you are not alone. I understand you must be very desperate and anxious now. As I don't know your school's culture and dynamics, it is difficult for me to give specific advice. However, I would say do whatever you need to get your degree. That is the most important thing for you. It may not turn out nice - be prepared that however careful and thoughtful you plan, you may still end up burning a bridge with your advisor. 

For me, I managed to push through and get my PhD. That life-saving advisor got funding for a project that I am interested in, so I joined his lab as a postdoc. He is a very nice and understanding person to work with. You could still call it a happy ending, but my relationship with those 2 toxic advisors is permanently damaged. They didn't even attend my graduation (they did for all other students). 

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