Friday, December 23, 2005

What They Don't Teach You in Grad School

From Inside Higher Ed, here are some helpful pointers for new grad students:

I. Understanding the Meaning of a Ph.D.
1. Finish your Ph.D. as early as possible. Don’t feel that you need to create the greatest work that Western Civilization has ever seen. Five years from now the only thing that will matter is whether you finished. If you don’t finish you are likely to join the ranks of “freeway flyers.” holding multiple part-time teaching jobs.

II. Finishing the Dissertation
4. If little or nothing is written on your dissertation topic, don’t assume that an abbreviated literature review is acceptable. Thesis committees are used to having a minimum sized review and will insist on it. If only three previous papers even touch on your subject, reviewing them is not considered an adequate literature search. Furthermore, the new data you expect to obtain, even in a specialized topic, can affect a lot of intersecting fields. Those fields have to be identified. In short, a literature review not only discusses what has been done and why but it also points out the areas in which your work has implications.

III. Hunting for Your First Academic Job
2. Most academic fields are dominated by fewer than 100 powerful people. These people know one another and determine the course of the field. Early in your career you should get to know as many of them as possible. More to the point, they should know who you are. You want them to see you as a bright young person on the cutting edge. Although important, there are dangers associated with this tactic. You should not begin the process until you have mastered the literature (particularly the papers they wrote!) and developed some ideas of your own. If they get to know you and conclude you have no ideas, you’re finished.

11. Avoid taking a job in a college that you attended, no matter how strong your loyalty as an alumnus. You will always be regarded as a graduate student by the older faculty and will be treated as such.

The complete article has many more pointers and some interesting reader comments at the end.


dt said...

I've been subscribing to this journal for the last few months and would have missed these articles had you not pointed them out...thanks. I've linked to them over here...

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