Medical Biophysics Graduate Student Association


Updates, opinion pieces, and news related to the department

Responding To Supervisor Feedback

Dr. Robyn Silverman describes her experience dealing with her academic advisor via, and has 5 useful tips that I'm sure we can all use:

(1)  Remember it is "critique" not "criticism": Your advisor is not criticizing you; he [or she] is doing his [or her] job and critiquing your work so that it is of the highest quality possible. He [or she] must critique your dissertation so that it gets better! I remember looking at my first draft after completing my last draft of my dissertation. What a difference! Think of your advisor as the person who is going to get you from good to great. It‘s easy to settle, but really, is that what a Ph.D. is all about?

(2)  Realize that you do not need to be flawless: Sometimes we feel like we are supposed to be "perfect" at this level of our graduate career when in actuality we are still learning!  After all, that is what this process is all about, right? When you give yourself permission to have faults, you can prepare yourself for the feedback you will receive from your advisor.  Remember that once you know the "jack in the box" is going to spring, it's not nearly as scary when it does.

(3)  Give yourself a break: When our work is returned to us with red pen marks all over it, our first inclination is often to want to fix the problem immediately. That's only natural. However, when emotions are running high, it‘s difficult to get perspective. Calm yourself down, read through the dissertation, put it down, and take a break. Cool down, stretch, take a shower, or do a yoga class or exercise walk. When you get back to your dissertation, you will be able to see your dissertation through fresh eyes.

(4) Get some support: Talk to a friend, a colleague, another faculty member, a coach, or a spouse about how you are feeling. Talking about the stress you are experiencing will provide you with much needed relief and release. Going through the feedback with a supportive person whom you trust will help you to determine whether you’re internalizing comments about your work as personal criticisms of you.

(5) Leave the little child at home: What child? The one inside of you! Sometimes we all want to just crawl into the fetal position and sniffle between gasps of "I don't wanna!" Dissertations are grown-up stuff. Upon seeing your advisor or picking up your dissertation draft, compose yourself. Remind yourself that you are your advisor's equal, you are worthy, and you are an adult!

[from All But Dissertation Survival Guide]

Samuel Oduneye