Thursday, August 30, 2012

Abusive Words from a Postgraduate Adviser

My postgraduate adviser was a wise woman, and I mean that sincerely, but for whatever reason, we did not communicate well. Many of her e-mails struck me as a bit blunt. Eventually, opening my inbox and finding a message from my adviser filled me with anxiety and dread. Perhaps these examples illustrate why I began to feel that way:

"Yes - you do seem confused - what you propose now is not a coherent strategy"

"The thing is - what you seem to not be taking on board is that you only had *4* subjects out of 38 who exhibited any of the behaviour you were interested in analysing (which makes me wonder, what are the grounds for your thinking you could publish the project?) - but anyway, and so - I was hoping you might come up with this yourself (as a result of common sense - nothing to do with statistical knowledge)"

"Finally - I hope you now have sufficient information to complete your task - I don't think I can add any more, and have already provided way more information than would be normally the case in dissertation supervision."

"I don't think there is a question in this message?"

"I know you say you think it was well-written - and some individual sentences WERE well-written"

At the start of an e-mail: "Good grief! ..."

"Please contact D- about booking rooms - I think N- already told you this?"

"Actually it wasn't several weeks ago - it was 30th April (one week ago) that I suggested the meeting for tomorrow … unfortunately as you didn't confirm before now, I have now got another meeting at that time."

"Yes I remember you asked me about this last time in December ... and it's the same now, as then"

"Dear Kelsey

I am not sure if your recent emails are due to the anxiety that you have previously alluded to but the thing is - after the feedback I have already given you, the idea is that you are work with that and make your own decisions - applying the suggestions I have made throughout the Lit Review. I get the impression you are not used to working independently and this is something you will have to work hard on.  The other point I would make is that it is not good practice to contact your supervisor with questions in the day or two leading up to the final deadline! I do remember I tried hard to get you to work to a much earlier deadline but you argued for taking Easter time to do concentrated work on the Lit Review.

At the moment as I think I already said - I am away 13-16 April - for a special birthday visiting with my elderly mother who has a heart condition. She lives in the South of Spain and the signal where she is, is very intermittent.

Anyway good luck.

Best wishes


"It seems that we have a different view of meeting times and etc on quite a few occasions now.  We will need to put a new strategy in place so that doesn't happen again."

 (Note: Kelsey once worked in a library):
"...When you say you can't locate an official source [for a certain psychometric test] - not sure what you mean - do you mean academic article where the test was first mentioned? I would be surprised if you can't track that down! are you using your library skills?"

"also - the question on if I would recommend contacting [a certain academic] - I think you have asked this kind of question before - I am curious about your asking that type of question in the first place - is this an American cultural thing? or an individual difference thing?"

"[your questions] do come over sometimes like you are looking for 'spoon-feeding' - which is something that even at undergrad level supervisors need to work against!)"

But, in all fairness, my adviser could show some encouragement:

"I was reluctant to read your para out of context - but couldn't resist - have to say - it's excellent! Well done! (Now knowing you, you will now start to worry that my expectations will be raised and this may have adverse consequences!) Don't be so hard on yourself - seems like you are doing a great job."

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