Supervisor-Research Student Translation Guide

Recently we had an issue with one of our postgraduate students who was disappointed with the grade he received for his research report. He had been under the impression from his supervisor that his work was of a high standard, but it was assessed as being very poor. It struck me that this unfortunate circumstance may well have been a simple matter of miscommunication rather than anything  else. It reminded me of a document, of uncertain provenance, that claims to be an ‘Anglo-EU translation guide’ and appears on many sites across the web. It consists of a table with the following columns: ‘what the British say’,  ‘what the British mean’ and ‘what others understand’. With acknowledgements to the originators, I have put together my own version, which attempts to  provide a ‘supervisor-research student translation guide’.

What the research supervisor says What the research supervisor means What the research student thinks has been said
You have chosen an interesting topic The project is both boring and impossible I am a genius
You may have missed one or two references You have not read or understood anything My literature review is almost complete
You may need to sharpen the focus of your conclusions Your work has made no contribution whatsoever My conclusions are important
I hear what you say I disagree entirely and do not expect to see this in the thesis I must put this in the thesis
With the greatest respect… I think you are an idiot They are listening to me
That’s not bad That’s good That’s poor
That is a very brave proposal You are insane They think I have courage
Quite good A bit disappointing Quite good
I would suggest… Do it or you will fail Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way The primary purpose of our discussion is… That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that I am annoyed that It really doesn’t matter
Very interesting That is clearly nonsense They are impressed
I’ll bear it in mind I’ve forgotten it already They will probably do it
I may have misunderstood, but… You have completely missed the point They have misunderstood
Perhaps you should write this up as a paper If you won’t listen to me, perhaps a rejection will wake you up They think my work is publishable
I almost agree I don’t agree at all They agree
I only have a few minor comments Please re-write completely They have found a few typos
Could we consider some other options? I don’t like your idea They have not yet decided
Correct me if I’m wrong I’m right, don’t contradict me They are wrong and need correcting
Up to a point Not in the slightest Partially
It’s time to start nominating your examiners Damn, we’re running out of time I am nearly finished
The examiners have suggested a few changes You deserved to fail but they have generously given you six months to try to salvage the thesis I have a doctorate, I will start applying for jobs

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