Guest Post by Kweku Ananse: Why Your PhD Supervisor is Not Reading Your Work

I am happy to introduce my first guest writer on this blog. This guest post is written by fellow graduate student Kwaku Ananse, one of my readers:

Just like most things in life, conventional wisdom posits that graduate school life is a linear process: you apply to the program of choice, you get accepted, you take and complete core and pertinent elective class classes, pass all those classes mostly with As (and Bs), and then you focus on completing your proposed thesis or dissertation. Even within the process of completing the thesis/dissertation, the accepted thinking posits that those committee members you select are the ones that eventually lead you to the finish line.

However, within my experience, being a ‘traditional graduate student’ who wants take the routine routes to complete a program should reassess such taken-for-taken ideas. One should realize that your supervisor most likely will not be the ‘ideal’ supervisor to deliver on the assumed responsibilities that he/she is supposed to provide.

There are many problems relating to why responsibilities are not fulfilled:

  1. Lack of time to read your work (but makes you to believe that all is well);
  2. Unwillingness/inability to provide you regular important feedback;
  3. Too many other ‘senior’ graduate students he/she might be attending to etc;
  4. The person reads,but doesn’t challenge you in your thinking/writing etc.
  5. Also committee members, understandably, will not like to step on a colleague’s toes (your supervisor’s) by seeming to provide research guidance that contradicts one’s supervisor’s (perhaps outmoded) suggestions.

Another reason to always be wary of the traditional route comes in the guise of ‘just complete your course work and dissertation advice’. Such advice doesn’t take cognizance of recent trends. Nowadays, having a transcript, a diploma/certificate and a dissertation under your armpit doesn’t cut it (unless of course, you already have a job security in a university/college).

In our times, employers want graduates with experience, widely interpreted either as teaching, research experience as evident in a publication, or both.

So, what should we do? Look out for Kwaku  Ananse’s next blogpost.


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  1. Good read! I however think this applies to University Project supervisors in general (first degree, masters, PhD). Another problem I believe is the fact that, your supervisor may not have so much of an interest in your chosen topic, and yet accept the responsibility to supervise it. You can imagine the drag. Argh!

  2. @Kafui: Like Kajsa, good points!! . . . Cumulatively, that’s the more reason why one should . . . . . (oh! wait, I dont want to give out what’s in the next blogpost, lol!!!)