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Phrases that must never be used when talking to your PhD Guide

There are some phrases that must never be uttered when talking to your PhD guide. 'Coz if you do, then you might have to endure a lecture from him/her that will leave you wondering what got into you, that you said that!!

  • "You said so earlier..." : Never ever say this. If your Prof. asks you to remove something from your presentation that he himself had asked you to add, you're done for if you tell him, "But, you asked me to put this in earlier". The standard reply you may get will be something like this- "I may have said so many things." Or worse, you may get a scorn for a reply that will instantly shut you up.
  • "I didn't get time to..." : You should definitely steer clear from saying anything of this sort. 'Coz if you do, then before you even finish your sentence, you're bound to get a look that says, "What? You didn't get time?!!." Then your Prof. will ask you, "So, what is it that you do that you don't get time for research? As far as i know, this is your only job right now. Correct me if I'm wrong." Well obviously, you know that you haven't just whiled away your time. It's just that you were doing some other thing that your Prof. himself asked you to do. So, either you got the priorities wrong or worse, maybe he expects you to do both simultaneously!! Phew! You never know what they really want.
  • "What should I do now?" : No. No. Wrong way to begin to tell him that whatever you had tried and whatever he had suggested wasn't working. I did exactly that sometime ago and what I got was a huge lecture on what research is, and how one should not throw up their hands and say that things are not working out (even if that exactly is the case!) and how one should take initiative (yeah right! What did he think I did?! Took initiative to come and tell him that something else must be tried. I didn't wait for him to come up and ask. And, what I got was a lecture on how I didn't do just that), and how he couldn't give me all the answers, and...Oh! It simply goes on and on. So now, learn from others' experience and never begin that way.
I guess more phrases will be added to this list during the course of my stay here as a PhD student. I'll do that as and when i come across them.

(Pssst... Hope my Prof. doesn't ever come across this blog.)


Update: As fate would have it, my Prof. has seen this blog. Guess, I should have maintained anonymity! But thankfully, he is the sweetest and so, he took it in the right spirit. I hope this makes up for all that is written in this blogpost.


  1. nice one! i liked the "i didn't get time to.." that's something that happens in the corporate world as well. you daren't tell your boss you didn't get time, or you'll be sacked! that shud give u enough free time! :)

  2. @ SEO: hehe...I wouldn't want that much free time!

  3. Nice post... though I have not experienced anything of this sort... [that does not mean I never get scolded... my guide has a different way of doing it... but mostly it had been a mistake from my side...!].

    By the way, it would have been nice if instead of Albert Einstein's caricature you had put a caricature of your guide advising you and yourself wondering how to escape the situation...! lol!!! :~P



  4. @ akp: thanks. i'm not creative enough to draw caricatures, so had to make do with this. :)

  5. Beware: You may also here something like "This is your Ph.D., If the guide tells you what to do, he/she should get the Ph.D. Why should you".....

  6. @ Ayan Bhaiyya: yeah, i guess i would :P

  7. I would suggest not to believe that your advisor would never visit your blog.

  8. @ iisc life: I will never mention it to him and hope that no one else does. And I don't think he would dream that I write a blog. Anyways, fingers crossed. Don't want to jeopardise my phd! :)

  9. I hate to have to tell you this, but your Prof. did come across this blog. And, yes, it does mean that your PhD is now in jeopardy. Serious jeopardy. But mostly because your act of lese majeste failed to include these other things you should never say to your prof.: "When can I graduate?" "Do I have to attend your lectures?" "Can I take the summer off?" And of course the completely verboten "Can I switch advisors?"

  10. @ Sir: Thanks a lot for not getting angry. :)


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