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My PhD adviser has no expertise in my research area .?

I disagree with the view that in your phd, you are (or must be) an independent researcher, and therefore the lack of guidance will not / should not affect your progress. In my view, you are *not* independent yet. You are doing your phd to learn how to be independent.I think this is a common misconception about phd: The phd is not independent research, it is the *transition* from masters, or undergraduate, level, dependent research, to PI-level, independent research. (And even after phd, many people even do a postdoc as a fine compromise between truly independent research and very minimally guided and externally funded research. Long story short, independent research is of course the ideal, but it is a skill that you gain over the years.) Let me ask it this way: If you were able to conduct independent research already, then why do a phd? You could then just apply for a PI position in a university, which would be identical to the situation (1) you have an income of funding externally, (2) no one tells you or helps you about what to do. I find it not realistic to assume that you learn nothing in 6 years during your phd, while also assuming you are capable to learn enough about a field to take a diploma in 4 years during your undergraduate, at the end of which you are seen capable to act as an expert, for instance, develop (high risk!) bridge projects as a civil engineer. So in my view, you do learn during your phd. While at the end of your phd, you will indeed become an independent researcher, you neither are, nor expected to be, one at the beginning. Let me put it another way: In my ~10 years of direct exposure to the academic world, I predict I have met and known to some degree +100 phd students easily, though most in computer science. Only 1 of them was capable of producing good (I must say excellent) research, with little or no help from his supervisor. This guy, one of the people that I truly look up to, in addition to being one of the most humane, kind, loveable, interesting people I've ever known, is also a text-book genius, one of the people with really high IQ, that one hears about, who has graduated from university when we were still in high school. He is unquestionably smarter than the average, and has already had years of exposure to his field due to his starting ~4 years early. But this is certainly the exception, not the rule. I have known a good deal of clever people, who suffered dearly when their supervisor can't/won't help. Unfortunately some of them has sworn off academia at the end, which always grieves me: to see a mind that was bright and full of hope and desire for research, coming to believe "there is not so much to it, apparently", just because they were left to suffer on their own in times of trouble. I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that a phd is a two-man job. Yes, you do the hard work, but you are given a mentor to help you at times when you are stuck. To tell which directions you are planning to follow are promising. At the beginning of your phd, you don't even know the literature properly. What if your planned project has already been undertaken by such and such? (Of course disciplines might differ, but in CS at least it is too common to try to develop solutions to already elegantly solved problems.) One of the most important jobs of the advisor is to know the literature well and warn you. I've seen countless aspiring phd's who have brilliant research ideas in their minds - which were solved a good 10/20 years ago. This is natural, because when we are new to a field, we start from the most basic ideas in our minds, since we are just learning about the topic. However with the sheer amount of people working in research today, with the impossible information spread over the internet, there is a good, *good* chance that these problems have been worked on already. (You will witness yourself during your phd how difficult it is to pin down an area that has not been touched yet!) Students with no proper guidance from the advisors tend to re-invent these wheels, only to be turned down by paper reviewers later on, who point to these unknown shadowy people's work on the same topic: "But have you read so-and-so's paper from 19XX-20XX? They work on the exact same topic, and already have a solution!" You cannot really know this, not yet, not before spending many years in your topic. There is too much to read. Your supervisor is responsible with knowing that and warning you. All being said, there is one very important case that I will rescind all of my arguments: And it is the case where your current adviser has genuine good-will, and is highly interested in you. These capabilities are then critical: Is she willing to listen? Is she willing to learn with you? (PIs may not always be, since they have next to nothing to lose from your phd process, unlike you). If yes, then that is great. You can discuss with her. When she falls short in knowledge, she can then point you to sources to learn, to people to ask. She understands the situation. Maybe she will also develop herself through your phd. (No one knows it all, and PIs must also develop themselves! The easiest way to do this, in my opinion, is through the phd of a student, who does the hard work, so they can spend next to no time, and still witness first-hand to all the technical, difficult details. I think it's a great opportunity for a PI to learn, but be warned: Not all PIs think they need to learn more, or interested in learning about your topic, unfortunately.) I agree that it is not an easy situation to solve. You need to be on the lookout for solutions. If your supervisor's willing to admit you may need guidance that she may not always provide, things may be good indeed. (Beware! Is she a personality type to accept no one is perfect? Academics may lose sight of that. If she thinks she knows everything needed (no one does!), and refuses to look for potential help to ease your situation, think a couple of times more.) But if she is cooperative, then I suggest discussing things with her. In such a discussion always be diplomatic. Remember you are dealing with a human being, who has targets, goals, fears and feelings of her own. Try to never hurt her feelings, and I do not mean this in a sense of protecting yourself, just as a courtesy to another human being. Unfortunately, we humans are always endowed with the negativity bias and we are too vulnerable to negative criticism. (In similar situations, I try to remember that everyone still has a little child in themselves. I try not to hurt that child, just out of pity and sympathy.) Try to be matter of fact, not accusing, putting your situation on the table like a problem that the two of you are partners-in-crime to solve together. That is what phd mentorship is, after all: you are partners-in-crime, and the problem of one is the problem of two. Maybe there is a way that you could get a co-supervisor? Maybe you can work closely with a postdoc, or have a collaboration with another team? Can she point any directions? If she is interested in you and your work enough, she can still make a great supervisor, learn from you at the same time, and can direct you in general about how to do research, how to write papers and get published, etc., while at the same time guiding you about how to find specific expertise that she does not have. I see a phd as a two-sided, unwritten contract: You promise that you will work hard, learn, and do what it takes to complete your project(s), and your supervisor promises to take a genuine interest in you and your work, to advise you when you get stuck, and make the separation whether this problem is something you need to overcome by working harder, or something that you need external help with. In case of external help and guidance (and believe me such times will exist) he/she must either supply it, or point you to alternate sources. Otherwise a phd would a one-sided contract, and you would be assigned no mentors, just some funding to carry your own research. Otherwise, at least we CS people would be doing our phds at home, since we mostly need nothing but a computer to work on. But language is still the most effective tool to learn things, and it is most effective directly from someone who already knows them. That is why we invented language, gossip, and Quora, in my opinion. Because we have only finite time, and it is always more efficient to directly transfer experience through someone by language, instead of dabbling in it yourself. I know it seems like a long time now, but believe me, a phd is really a short time compared to what you aspire to do: Contribute to human knowledge in an original way. You will need all the guidance and the good will you have. That is of course, all my personal opinion :) Also never forget that we here have only access to an incredibly short summary of the situation, and you have all the information, so your own decision is more than likely to be the best one at the end! No matter what, always keep in mind why we are doing research (Because it is so much fun!!), and always try to surround yourself with people who will keep you energized and passionate and happy about what you do :) Best of luck!

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