Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Good versus Evil. Or a study of a split personality.

This whole writing a thesis thing has made it necessary to interact with my advisor a lot more often than previously. As a result, I have noticed something alarming. My advisor has a split personality.

(To be perfectly honest, I had noticed this before when prepping for conferences and the like. However, I didn’t realize the extent of the problem.)

The two personalities are what I like to call Evil Advisor and Good Advisor. The problem is……they are virtually indistinguishable. I have no idea at the time who is speaking. It is only after the fact (and after needless suffering on my part as well as huge amounts of time sucked away into a inaccessible vortex, never to return) that I realize who was giving me which advice.

The first glimpse of the personality disorder came when I was submitting an abstract for a meeting. I had started experiments but wasn’t done with them prior to the abstract needing to be submitted. This made it difficult to write an abstract since I had no idea what the results would be.

Evil Advisor's suggestion: Just state what you think will happen. We will change it for the actual meeting. People do that all the time.

Good Advisor’s response: I said that? That was Evil Advisor speaking. We need to have results. Better get cracking on that.

This sort of ping pong behavior has been plaguing my whole thesis writing experience. If I come out alive with my sanity intact, I will be amazed.


Evil Advisor: I don’t need to see your proposal.

Good Advisor: Did you ever do a proposal?
Lady Susan: Yes.
Good Advisor: Did I ever see it?
Lady Susan: No, you said you didn’t need to see it.
Good Advisor: I don’t know why I said that. You should have bothered me about it.

And oh, don’t I wish I had bothered him about it. My pain and suffering in writing my introduction would have been lessened considerably. But how was I supposed to know it was Evil Advisor speaking to me that first time?


Advisor (time 1): This paragraph reads well.

Advisor (time 2): This paragraph needs a complete redraft.

Same exact paragraph. I am still trying to figure out who was speaking to me at which time. I guess I will know when I get my third draft back whether Evil or Good advisor liked the paragraph. Or at least I will know who the dominant voice is when it comes to editing my thesis.


Good Advisor: You need to check to see if mass covaries with growth and consumption as a function of temperature and dissolved oxygen. We might have to standardize your results to a specific mass if it does.

This of course after I have already written the results. The result of this little conversation: I have to re-run all my analyses, re-do all my figures, and re-write all my results. My question: was it Evil Advisor looking at my data for the past two years? Was it Evil Advisor who listened to me present this data at four separate conferences and did not say a bloody word? If so, Evil Advisor sucks and is going down.

Any suggestions on how to do that?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Do you have an doctor friends that may be able to preform a lobotomy before the completion of your thesis? Truly, frustrating! Hang in there. You are fulfilling one of my deepest dreams..okay maybe not the writing part, but certainly studying at a graduate level. I'll be rooting for you.


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