Category: WritingHow to work on additions and comments in a PhD thesis?

Hi! I am in the third year of my PhD and I recently received the reviewed third draft of my thesis from my supervisor. The problem is that I am struggling with the corrections and additions that my instructor has recommended to me for my research thesis. The number of corrections and comments that he has suggested to me are so many that even looking at them is making me feel scared! At certain places he has asked me to restructure entire chapters or revise the theoretical framework used, and I absolutely can’t figure out how to make such major changes at this late a stage in my research. I mean is that even possible now !?
At many places he has just put the comment “generalisation” even though I have provided relevant data to supplement my claims. I don’t think that he even bothered to go through or read the content properly, and has just suggested extensive revisions just in order to keep me occupied. Apart from that he has made many substantial deletions from the thesis which have also reduced the word count of the entire thesis. I can’t understand why did he not suggest these large-scale revisions when I sent him the first draft of my work. I don’t even know how to begin proceeding with all these changes now! Has someone had a similar experience with their supervisor, how did you manage to deal with it?

asked on 27 Feb 18Keshav VermaKeshav Verma Staff
4 Answers
answered on 10 Mar 18

You seem a bit overwrought over all of this but it really isn’t that big a deal. My supervisor too has asked me to rework and rewrite portions of my thesis so many times. It doesn’t seem at all like the document I started with. But this is all part and parcel of being a researcher, you learn through these various revisions and rewrites that you make and to your research. You can look at this way, that at least after these substantial revisions you will have made, your research work will be ironclad and much more rigorous than before. Perhaps you can mention this to him, that you would have appreciated this extensive ‘feedback’ (don’t call it criticism!) earlier, while you were on the first or second draft of your writing and is it will be lot of work for you to make all these changes at this stage. And then ask him for adequate time in order to complete all the changes.

answered on 16 Mar 18

Can understood the really difficult situation in which you must have found yourself. It must be frightening to think of making such huge changes at this stage. I think that you should approach this by breaking the entire the entire process into smaller parts which will make it easier. Start with the really small changes first and then move onto larger ones so that you have sufficient time to build up to them, because starting by revising entire chapters and re-doing the theoretical framework will be a bit too daunting. Also I would recommend that you involve somebody else in the process (perhaps a fellow doctoral student from your field) to offer another perspective. Like you said it will be a difficult thing to do so having another set of eyes looking at the thesis as you make the changes will help your case.

answered on 17 Mar 18

Some supervisors are known for doing these sort of notorious things. It is entirely possible that he didn’t really go through the earlier drafts of the thesis that you sent in properly and hence hadn’t suggested any major changes earlier. Now that he has finally managed to go through the thesis, he has suggested such extensive changes, the kind that he should’ve recommended earlier. You haven’t mentioned whether you have mentioned this to him, but according to me you should definitely try to explain the difficulty of making such huge changes to your thesis so late in your course, before you begin making the changes in the document. Perhaps he will understand and relent on a few of the major ones, which will save you a lot of work. And do not forget to address each and every one of his comments this time, so that in later drafts you don’t have to make these huge revisions and rewrites. All the best for the conversation, I hope he agrees!

answered on 17 Mar 18

Hi! Thank you for taking out the time to respond to my queries, it has been very consoling for me to hear that other people have also had similar experiences. I had begun to feel rather depressed about this whole business, and been feeling that I’m the only one who has had such a horrid experience with their supervisor. And yes, I will try talking him out of some of the suggestions for the rewrites of entire chapters that he has made. I plan to tell him clearly that I cannot do it as it will entirely revamp the structure and nature of the thesis, and will require me to collect fresh data hence these changes can’t be made. Hopefully he will show a little consideration and agree to cancel some of the changes at least. Even that would be a great help for me at this stage!

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