I’m late in my PhD career, and I recently switched advisors. I’m having major doubts about my work and my choices seem to be: stay on this project or drop out. I’m looking for advice from people who were in similar situations. Sorry for the long posts, PhD complaint posts are probably always long. 🙂

I was given a project: read paper “A” and followup paper “B” and figure out how to follow up with “C”. While Paper A initially caught my eye as interesting and promising, I now seem inevitably led to the conclusion its logic is basically bogus. It was a real emotional hit when I began to see that — if Paper A were plausible, my life would be a lot easier right now.

I have mentioned my skepticism to others who have familiarity with Paper A. They say that I am right to have doubts, that the paper is not great and there are flaws, but they still think the general idea is true. I feel like I am not being heard — if they understood me, they would see that I am saying that the general idea is probably not true.

A relevant fact I should mention here is this: all the people I’ve talked to so far who have read Paper A participated in publishing Paper B. I am not so naive, and I suspect perhaps cognitive dissonance is at play here.

My SO suggested I briefly write down my doubts and the reasons for them, plus potential other directions for research, and bringing them to my committee. I think this is a good idea.

I will just leave these things here:

  1. My doubts aren’t being heard. My advisor said, “You can do this project, or you can find another advisor.” I mentioned this to a member on my committee, ready to quit. They said, “Don’t worry about that, it’s not true and it’s just a misguided way of trying to motivate you.”

  2. My advisor’s techniques seem really outdated. I am trying to show him recent papers which have amazing results we could build on. He both hasn’t read them and doubts their methods. How both can be true I’m not sure.

This list was going to be longer but it is painful to write. I am hoping someone can tell me: “look, man, there is a way to solve this”, but I think I know what kind of answers I’m going to get.

What sucks is this: I feel like I was made to do good research. I see myself as methodical, precise, skeptical, and a highly motivated problem solver. I have good relationships with my peers, and I’m pretty respectful of others. And I keep ending up with advisors who seem like they don’t really give a damn about anything except publishing. Help please.

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