1000Plateaus Posted June 12, 2013 Share Posted June 12, 2013 I'll try to be as brief as possible. I applied and was admitted to a MA program in philosophy in Canada. It's a 2-year MA program with coursework and a MA thesis with an oral defense. That was in 2010. It's now 2013 and I still have not graduated. Here's why: I finished my coursework in time. My thesis is the problem. Like all who have to write theses and dissertations, I wrote a proposal for my MA thesis. My supervisor read it over and said he could work with me on it. The proposed project, while ambitious in its scope and subject matter, was approved by my committee in May 2011. That summer I began doing research, taking notes, and writing. During my 2nd year, I was still writing and doing coursework, and that winter applied to various PhD programs, thinking I was going to finish in due time. Boy, was I ever wrong! I got accepted into the PhD program at the SAME Dept. where I am still doing my MA. I was thrilled, and I was looking forward with starting my PhD in the Fall of 2012. From Jan 2012 to August 2012 I was writing like crazy and sending drafts of my chapters to my supervisor to read and correct. A little bit about my advisor: he's a well-respected scholar and academic, he's a bit of a 'star' at my school, undergrads love his lectures. He has 6-8 MA and PhD students, including his own research - which ALWAYS takes priority over everything else. Suffice it to say that he barely shows any investment in his students, making it up to you to track him down and ask to meet with him face-to-face to discuss things. He's intimidating, has no patience for friendly chit-chat. In personal meetings, if you don't ask him direct questions about work, he isn't going to talk, he just stares you down. He is a very tough advisor, someone who can never manage a positive comment and has a tendency to be very harsh, rude, insulting, and downright mean in his 'constructive' comments. I tried to ignore his nasty words and just focus on the points he was attempting to get across. He made me re-write my 2nd chapter 3 times in the summer of 2012, which is fine because I thought I was in the right track. I met with him in August to talk about my plan to defend in the fall of 2012. In that meeting, he mentioned I would have to probably pay extra tuition for the fall term. Confused, I had to remind him that I was actually coming back in Fall 2012 as a PhD student. He has forgotten that I had been accepted and was returning as a student (even though he had written a letter on my behalf). Fast forward to Sept. 2012. I had registered as a PhD student in my Dept. and was ready to start my program, however I hadn't defended my MA thesis yet. My advisor had not reminded me of the Sept. deadline that MA degrees need to be complete for students to advance to the PhD level. I had NO idea that this deadline existed, never mind that my advisor had forgotten that I was supposed to come back as a full-time student. So I panicked. The Chair of the Dept. informed me that if I didn't finish by the 26th, then my PhD offer was going to be void. I would lose it. So for the remaining 3-4 weeks, I was doing heavy editing, writing and revising. My draft needed to be approved by my supervisor, as well as my 2nd reader (who hadn't read a word of my thesis at this point). Barely getting any sleep, I managed to have a complete draft ready for my advisor to read over on Sept. 23rd. E-mail from Hell: Then I got what I've tentatively called 'The E-mail from Hell'. My advisor wrote a 6-10 paragraph e-mail, explaining that it was impossible for him to recommend my draft for defense. He said that I "had no idea what I was talking about", that it was so "blatantly obvious" that I was over my head, that I was "saying things just to sound knowledgeable without knowing them". In his many comments, he mentioned that there were areas of my thesis that were "agonizing to read and not at the graduate level". Never mind that he had READ those sections in the summer, but had somehow failed to mention their lack of sophistication. I felt like I had been duped somehow. I felt like he had deliberately set me up to fail. It was like he had opened the door for me, asked me to walk through it, only to trip me and kick me when I was down. He had rejected my thesis. He told me that he would not write me a letter of recommendation until he saw a defensible thesis, prolonging my application into the PhD program. The Dept. said that they needed me to formally re-apply into the program and that there is no guarantee that I will get accepted a second time. My original PhD offer was gone. I had a total breakdown. The Dept.'s solution was to give me an extension to finish my thesis. I had a TAship from Sept. 2012-April 2013. But my advisor's nasty words, and that e-mail had left me paralyzed. Every time I opened my thesis on MS Word, I had an anxiety attack. I couldn't do any work, I couldn't write and edit. It took me about 5 months to finally get over the emotional trauma and get back to work. Present Day: I completely scrapped the 1st Chapter of my thesis and re-wrote the entire 30 pages from scratch. It still needs some revisions, but it is very close to being approved. I scrapped the last 10 pages of my 2nd chapter, and re-wrote it. adding an entire new section, making it into a 47 page chapter. It took me about 2 months to do heavy research and work on the 4th draft of my 2nd chapter. I finally was able to hand it in to my advisor last week and guess what? I got an e-mail from him saying that while there are 'improvements', I still need to substantially work on the main argument of in my chapter. The 2nd chapter, according to him, is still very rough. Oh I also have a 3rd chapter that I haven't had time to work on, because my advisor still hasn't approved the first 2 chapters. The Dept. has said that if I need to, I can request a formal extension on my degree from the Faculty Dean, but my advisor needs to sign off on this formal request. To make things worse, my advisor is going on leave from Sept. 2013-May 2014. He ONLY told me this last week. He's said that he'd rather have me finish in August. So he is essentially denying me an extension and is forcing me to finish this summer. What's frustrating is that I have no idea of knowing when my thesis will be ready for defense. I keep writing and writing, revising, editing, draft after draft, and he still makes me do more edits. So while I want to get this over with and fucking move on with my life, the uncertainty is killing me. I would love nothing more than do finish in August and not have to withdraw in good-standing. But every time I think I have written a strong chapter, he gives the copy back to me with hundreds of corrections, edits, and in the case my lengthy 2nd chapter, more heavy revisions. This has been one of the most stressful, horrendous, anxiety-inducing 2-3 years of my life. It's my dream to continue onto a PhD, I love philosophy and want to teach. But this MA experience has been a very negative one. My hair is thinning and is going grey. I've started seeing a therapist to deal with my anxiety. Here what I know I did wrong: -I chose a very difficult project (it feels more like a dissertation than a thesis) -I failed to do enough background checks on my advisor before I asked him to supervise my thesis. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But I'm only half to blame, I think. My supervisor doesn't invest in his students at all. He merely writes comments on drafts, and unless you pester him about meetings and advice, he's happy to do his own thing. He had seen me struggling with my thesis in the summer of 2012, but never once did he suggest that I either: a) narrow my topic to make it manageable so that I can finish faster; or stop me and point out that it might be better for me to choose a different topic altogether. I'm frustrated, angry, stressed, miserable, depressed, anxious, fed up, and exhausted. I was burnt out in Sept 2012, and am STILL working on this thesis, making more revisions. But what choice do I have? I am going to aim to defend by August, but that all depends on my ability to satisfy my advisor. My 2nd reader is a much considerate person, but he still needs to read my draft, give comments, and they both have to approve my thesis before it can do to defense. Had someone pulled me aside 3 years ago and warned me against pursuing such a difficult thesis topic, I would have gladly changed it. I would have been in the 2nd year of my PhD by now. This has been the M.A. experience from hell. Ambitious thesis topic + terrible/difficult advisor = a nightmare. Sorry, I said I would be brief but couldn't be. I welcome any comments, similar stories and experiences, advice, and general outbursts of rage in solidarity. Thank you for reading. B. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
Create an account or sign in to comment
You need to be a member in order to leave a comment
Create an account
Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!Register a new account
Already have an account? Sign in here.Sign In Now