Testimonials: How Should I Proceed?

We invite testimonials from undergraduate and graduate students in all disciplines.

All names and institutional affiliations will be redacted. We will under no circumstances reveal the names of respondents. See our privacy policy for details. We also recommend that you show it to a close friend to make sure that there is no identifying information in your submission.

We would like submissions in essay/story format. Feel free to include specific anecdotes, incidents, etc. Basically, tell us as much as you feel comfortable sharing. Please don’t worry too much about your writing, grammar etc. and focus on content.

We have arranged the questions into two sections, one for people who’ve taken part as classroom learners (along with practical experience), and one for those who’ve had research experience. Please answer every question that applies to you; the questions in the first section are intended to apply to everyone, and we expect that some of the questions apply to both classroom and research experience.

Survey Questions

Classroom Learners and researchers:

We expect that these questions apply to everyone. If some of these are relevant to different experiences in your classroom and research experience, talk about both/either.

  • When did you get interested in your current field of study?
  • Tell us your thoughts on the coursework. How approachable were your instructors? Did you feel the coursework served to increase or decrease your interest in the subject? Were the assignments helpful in furthering your knowledge and interest of the subject?
  • When you began your coursework, did you feel you were as comfortable with the prerequisites as your classmates? If you felt more comfortable than your peers did with the prerequisites, can you think of why this was the case? If you felt less comfortable than your peers did with the prerequisites, wereIn any efforts made (by you and your colleagues, or the course instructor) to remedy this gap?
  • Do you feel that the administration, both academic and non-academic, is responsive to the needs of the student body (e.g. basic amenities, fees, curriculum etc.)? Do you feel that this responsiveness is restricted to certain groups?
  • Do you feel that attempts to improve the academic environment were dealt with in a reasonable manner, or framed as destructive acts and discarded?
  • How were your interactions with your peers? Do you feel like your demographic* identity played a role in these? If yes, would you classify it as harassment? If yes, did you seek redressal from your institute and what were your experiences doing so?
  • Have you had any mental health problems during your academic tenure? If yes, did you try to use in-house counselling? What was your experience?
  • Were you ever discriminated against for your demographic status — gender, caste, economic class, LGBTQIA+ status, mental health issues/neurodiversity, differently-abled status and social class (eg. English ability).


We expect these questions to apply to researchers only, but we won’t prevent others from touching upon them.

  • How did you end up working with your current advisor? Did you have the option to choose between multiple possible advisors? If yes, what were the criteria you used to choose your current advisor? Did non-academic factors play a role?
  • In the early stages of your PhD, did your advisor help bridge the gap between coursework and research work? Were they open about the gaps in their knowledge/understanding? Did you feel comfortable being honest about what you knew and what you didn’t know?
  • Did you co-author papers with your advisor? If so, did you feel they contributed fairly to the work? 
  • Did you consider switching advisors? If so, would this have been possible/easy or do you expect there would have been some backlash?
  • Describe your personal equation with your advisor. Did your advisor treat you as they would a fellow colleague, with respect and dignity?  Were their expectations reasonable? Did they conduct themselves professionally at all times? Did they expect you to work on weekends/holidays? Were youre comfortable establishing boundaries between work and leisure? Do you feel that demographic or other aspects played a large part in this relationship?
  • In what form was criticism of your work given by your advisor? Was it primarily constructive and professional, or destructive and personal? 
  • Do you feel that you were able to strike a work-life balance that allowed you to flourish as an individual? Did you have the space or inclination to try? If not, what caused this? Were your attempts to perform non-academic activities (art, music, sports, etc.) on your own time framed as distractions from your work? 
  • Were you happy with the general academic environment you were provided with during your research? If not, did you make any efforts to change this environment? How were these efforts received by your colleagues, both senior and junior? 
  • Were you allowed to progressively become more independent during your PhD? Were you encouraged to work with other faculty members in the department? More generally, do you feel that the independence granted to you increased over time?
  • Did your advisor make efforts to ensure you graduated in a timely fashion? Did they bring to your attention advertisements for postdoctoral fellowships, teaching positions, etc.?

* By demographic status, we mean a rather wide range of factors that are axes of oppression in modern India: gender, caste, economic class, LGBTQIA+ status, mental health issues/neurodiversity, differently-abled status and social class (eg. English ability). ↩︎

Request for feedback:

These questions are entirely optional, and we would like them answered separately and not as part of your testimonial. We may not be able to implement every suggestion, but we’ll try our best to improve based on these inputs.

  • Are there any other questions you’d like to see on this list? We are a limited set of people, and it is more than likely that important questions are missing due to our blind spots.
  • Do you feel that we could improve the format of this exercise? Do you feel that the essay format was a big ask? What would you prefer?

More Questions?

If you have any questions or concerns that we haven’t covered in this document, we encourage you to reach out to us at: notacademy@protonmail.com.