Post # 1
Is it normal for your advisor to be a PITA?
My advisor acts like I’m barely there. I want to graduate in 2 years, which is the program timeline, but most people end up taking 3-4 (no idea why). So I want to get on things now with my thesis. I’ve been going into his office hours for the last few weeks to talk about a plan, and he seems largely disinterested. I’ve told him the timeline I want, and he keeps telling me I need to “make a timeline.”
So I figured talking about my plan wasn’t enough, so I sat down and put some pieces together for my proposal. Just a rough draft of certain pieces (research questions, methodology, interview questions – I’m an anthro student, and outline).
He initially told me that my committee chair should help me put together my proposal. So I went in today with what I had and to ask if he’d chair my committee, and he said he wouldn’t without a written proposal. Which the week before he said I should put together with my chair. Ugh. Then he flips through my paper and gives me all sorts of helpful tips like, “you should’ve included page numbers” (it’s a draft, come on). “where’s your bibliography?” (there was nothing to cite), and “have you read those names I gave you yet?” (not all, because the campus library has NONE of them, and they aren’t really pertinent to my topic. I’m doing nutrition and homelessness, and there’s virtually no anthropological literature on the topic).
Ugh. So now I feel like an idiot for handing in a rough draft that wasn’t 100% perfect. Everyone in the department has trouble with him. Now I wished I had asked someone else to chair my committee.
Is it normal to feel like you are banging your head against a wall whenever you talk to your advisor?
Post # 3
@jedeve: Honestly, my advisor in Grad school HATED me . I finished my program in two years, but no thanks to him. I put all of my classes together and figured out what I needed on my own. I barely talked to him. If I needed help, I went to other professors who I trusted to help me. I am so sorry your are dealing with this. It should be a requirement that professors have empathy for their students and help them without making it seem like they are burdening them. Just keep working hard, it pays off in the end.
Post # 4
Yikes! Sounds evil. Luckily my advisor is amazingly supportive and excellent at giving constructive advice and direction. She pretty much rocks. (Sorry, I know that’s not what you want to hear.)
Post # 5
I can somewhat relate to your experience. I am a master’s student in sociology and I am currently finishing up my thesis in hopes of a May graduation.
I applaud you for starting early on your thesis because had I started a little bit sooner I wouldn’t be feeling the pressure to get things done here in the last few months. If your experience is anything like mine, you will need all the time that you can get especially if you want to graduate in 2 years. I noticed that the 2 year graduate degree expectation is not really the norm here either but usually it doesn’t extend past the 3 year mark. With that said, I would choose a maind advisor who you feel that you can TRUST and RELY on to give you feedback on your thesis. My main advisor actually is really nice and super helpful…but…he is also very busy with other things. In fact, right now he is in India for three weeks doing research. Therefore, trying to get feedback when I want it and when he was available to give me feedback wasn’t always on the same wavelength. So, my “timeline” wasn’t always contigent upon my determination to get things done but it was also contigent upon how well my main professor was able to give me feedback in a timely manner (if that makes sense).
With that said, I would recommend looking around to other professors in your department to see if anyone else is a better fit. I’m not sure how close graduate students work with their main advisors where you are going but here it is pretty common. So finding someone that you feel COMFORTABLE with and you feel will enhance your graduate research is someone I think you should strive to have on your committe.
Also, if you haven’t done the final paperwork that specifies him as your committee (and even if you have you can have it amended) you should be able to retract your request for him to be your main advisor. I had contacted one professor in my department and she seemed uninterested in my research (and also seemed like she was going to give me a hard time) so I just decided not to go forth and ask her to on my committe.
Finally, (sorry if this is getting long) but I would recommend choosing people to be on your committee who get along with eachother. There is nothing worse than two professors disagreeing with eachother about your research project and it affecting your timeline for getting the project done and graduating. Once you do choose your main advisor I would have them suggest those professors in your department who they believe would be beneficial to your success.
Post # 7
@jedeve: OMG. I totally get it. I’m not in anthro and the idea of graduating in 2 yrs total sounds like heaven to me. Are you a new student? It doesn’t really matter the timeline of program – how long on average does it take for students in *his* lab to graduate? Maybe he thinks your plan is too ideal. Maybe he can’t look at the big picture until you have some preliminary data. If you’re new, maybe he has a project in mind he wants you to do. Do you guys do weekly meetings as a group? If so, ask to present at the next meeting – tell him why your idea is important for the field and for *him* to support, and cite others’ work as much as possible. It also helps when older students of his are present; he’d likely respect their POV more.
Post # 8
@mxpinky: No, we don’t do any of that stuff. He’s supposed to be the advisor for all medical anthropology students, but there are like 4 of us, and 1 of them switched advisors. The other admits he’s terrible, and somehow I haven’t met the other girl.
Maybe I will ask someone else to be my chair, but I feel weird saying “well, nevermind I’m gonna go with so and so.” I guess I can approach from a theoretical stand point since the other person I’m thinking of is more in line with my theoretical approach….
@Corykru: the funny part is it IS a requirement (at least in anthropology) that advisors actually help their student. And I know that because I’m taking an ethics class from him. Oh the irony.
Post # 9
@jedeve: Ugh, I’m sorry you’re having to deal with that! To answer your question, Yes. (But not all of them). I had an awesome Master’s advisor who was supportive of me academically and as a person in general. My PhD advisor… not so much. He’s definitely been VERY difficult to work with. We’ve had some rough spots and I seriously considered changing advisors several times. Things are getting better now, but I’m almost done.
It sounds like you’re being very proactive about putting together your committee and getting started on your research! I would definitely keep after him about making sure you’re sticking to the timeline that YOU want. Unfortunately it’s probably going to be up to you to keep on schedule since he doesn’t seem to care. As far as picking a different advisor, I would be cautious. Is this professor someone who will help you get what you want out of your research? Would you be able to do the same type of research under another professor? You might want to consider adding a co-major advisor if you can. That person can sometimes help you in dealing with your advisor and in some ways protect you if you feel like you’re going to get screwed. When you put together the rest of the committee, you can always turn to the other professors for advice and assistance if your advisor isn’t around or interested.
One thing that I was told several times when I thought about changing advisors was “don’t burn any bridges.” Just be careful to consider how changing advisors would affect your research and your next 2+ years of school, as well as your professional career. My major is a pretty close-knit field, so cutting ties with my prof would have made things VERY uncomfortable within the department and possibly reflected badly on me coming out of school. Make sure that you’ll be ok in the long run if you make the change now. I know it’s miserable. Good luck and hang in there!!!
Post # 10
Not all advisors but unfortunatley there’s a bit of a social weird bug in academia.
He does seem like he’s not quite taking you seriously and it is a PITA but to an extent you just have to deal with his oddities unless you think you can do better off switching. When I was a studnet we’d have lab meeting and I’d stay up real late to finish graphing an experiment I’d just completed and he’d make a comment about some line thickness not being dark enough to publish – it’s like just look at the freaking data, the results are exciting – I’ll make the line darker in 2 seconds when we get back to lab.
But as for not citing things, I can see how that would irritate him, even when you have a very novel idea you still cite things even if they’re not perfectly direct relationships. I don’t see him budging on that one.
Post # 11
I just spent 5 minutes trying to figure out what a PITA is and if I wasn’t going to graduate because I don’t have one! Once I figured out what it stood for, I realized I have approx 7 PITAs… lucky me.
I don’t have to write a thesis so I can’t speak from personal experience, but others who have written one have done so many drafts it’s ridiculous. I’ve also seen people having to give up their entire idea of what they want to do their PhD dissertation on and do what their chair prefers, which is really sad to see. My advice is to just have the thickest skin possible and be a suck up for your chair despite how douche-tastic he is and then come complain to us and others in your program! 🙂
Post # 12
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA yes. That is, indeed, the norm.
2 years sounds really short for a PhD, though – is it possible there’s a good reason that it takes most people longer?
Post # 13
My advisor is actually one on my professors this semester. He still has no clue who I am. I’ve met with him several times, but he is a pain to get a hold of. I mean, he is a nice guy. I just wish he was easier to talk to.
Post # 14
I’ve also seen people having to give up their entire idea of what they want to do their PhD dissertation on and do what their chair prefers, which is really sad to see.
That is what happened to my Fiance. As a result, he got really depressed, hated it, and ended up dropping out of the program. It majorly sucks. It’s certainly not the only reason for his depression, but if he’d been doing a topic he cared about, I think it would have had a very different outcome.
Post # 15
@jedeve: I have the same advisor for my minor as the grad students in the department, and they are all fine with her. But I do wonder if it’s an anthro thing to be wishy-washy, I’ve never gotten a clear answer on courses or anything really from my advisor in my major (Anthro) or even the other professors.
For what it’s worth I do recall someone in an Anthro Theory course presenting on an ethnography of the homeless in San Francisco or LA and it involved nutrition and/or drug use (at the time I was more concerned about my presentation so I didn’t pay all that much attention). I want to say it was by Nancy Sheper-Hughes but that doesn’t seem right, maybe Gowan?
Post # 16
@Knubbsy-Wubbsy: Are you think of James Spradley? There’s a lot on drug use, but I haven’t seen much on nutrition specifically. Besides one liners of “and most homeless people are malnourished.”
@LaurenK0105: Haha I think you’re much more likely to graduate without a PITA.
@mightywombat: I’m just going for a Masters! Not trying to be a superstar here, haha. If I have to spend 4 full time years on a MA though, I’m gonna just quit.