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A lot of people here are in graduate school, some of them headed for a PhD.  Quite a number of others here have already been indoctrinated, or given the third degree.  I am one of the people who have managed to Pile it Higher and Deeper enough to get those letters.

So, here are some tips.  Feel free to add your own.

1) Choosing a topic for your dissertation.  There are two good methods: Topic leading to mentor, or mentor leading to topic.  
Perhaps you know, when you start the application process, exactly what you want your disseration to be about.  If so, great. Look where the people in your area are located.  Write to them.  Find out who you would like to work with.  Apply there.  

Method two is mentor leading to topic: In your coursework, you'll have a variety of courses, and will get to know other students.  Find a professor who you like, and check if he/she is a good mentor.  Then figure out what that professor is interested in, read up about it, and propose something.  EVERY article ends with "further research is needed".....find some that your favorite prof thinks is needed.

2.  Putting together a committee.  a) Be sure to have someone on the committee who knows the departmental rules down cold.  Which style manual.  Who gets copies when.  What paperwork is needed when, and so on.   b) Be sure to have no feuds on your committee.  Academic departments are filled with petty jealousies and rivalries.  Keep them off your committee.  c) NO loose cannons.  Many departments have some assistant professor who thinks the way to tenure is raising all sorts of tricky issues.  Or a professor WITH tenure who has odd ideas.  Keep them off your committee.

Start thinking about your committee EARLY.

3.  Choosing electives.  To the extent possible, every elective should be useful for your dissertation.

4.  Writing.  Be sure to remember that a dissertaion is NOT the great American novel, nor is it your lifework, nor is it intended to be the greatest piece of scholarship ever.  

5.  Consultants.  Many departments allow, or even encourage, the use of consultants for technical issues.  I do this sort of work myself (in statistics for social science types).  This isn't cheating (unless you don't get it approved).  Your research has to be your own, but you can get help.

Well, that's what I can think of right now.  Chime in with questions, or more suggestions, or whatever.

Originally posted to plf515 on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 03:57 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I have one too, but ... (4+ / 0-)

    Over many years, I have learned to play the damned thing down.

    I don't put it on my CV, because it is a sure-fire way to not get job interviews (y'know, PHD-itis, right?).

    I don't use it anywhere except on my business card.  And I have many "3rd-degree" friends in business who do the same -- we all deny having the thing.  

    In academia -- well, I understand.  In the rest of the universe?  Don't waste your time and money making yourself unemployable.

    A true patriot is one who will defend his country against its government.

    by ducque on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:02:23 PM PDT

    •  It must depend on the field (3+ / 0-)

      Obviously, in academia, degrees are important.
      In some businesses, at least, ducque says they may be a handicap.

      But there are other areas: Technical areas, consulting, and so on, where I think the third degree is important.  

      Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

      by plf515 on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:06:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yep (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        plf515

        In my field (environmental consulting) I love having them around.  Nothing like the ability to talk in depth about complex problems with someone who really has it down cold.

        ducque has a point though.  A PhD makes you THE expert in the room.  So it's only employable where they need someone like that.  Otherwise, an MS will do fine and carries sufficient heft.

        Of course, it depends on why you want the degree.  Are you doing it as training for a specific employment arena?  Or are you pursuing it because you have a passion for the learning.  (Those aren't necessarily mutually exclusive).

        Here, have a couple bucks.  That and this post will get you some coffee.

        "the Greater Good and the Greater Profit are not compatible aims" -- Yann Martel

        by baba durag on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:12:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I've noticed that... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WI Deadhead

      I have literally been told that my PhD makes me over qualified for some of the jobs I knew I needed to take to deal with the learning curve of a somewhat different field.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:51:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  also (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    coigue, DeweyCounts, plf515, Jimdotz, oscarsdad

    marry an understanding (saintly?) spouse.

    $20 billion a year for 10 years would eradicate hunger worldwide. US consumers spend $40 billion a year on diet products. -Medard Gabel

    by lil love on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:13:01 PM PDT

    •  Absolutely crucial (6+ / 0-)

      I found this was a great help.

      Picking the committee was the key for me.  I had people on my committee that were known to want to get the goddamthing (one word right?) through.

      I also chose a chair who was apparently friends with anyone.

      It is finished, on microfilm somewhere, and will never see another day of light for eternity.  However, I have the PdD, got a tenure-track position, got tenure, and am now a full professor.  

      Now, of course, my own research is not related to anything I did in the PhD.  

      The wise are driven by reason; ordinary minds, by experience; the stupid, by necessity, and brutes by instinct. Cicero

      by MoDem on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:18:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  i wonder what is your discipline (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WI Deadhead, blue jersey mom, plf515
        In principle, none of my M.Sc. students would get through without publishing something, or at least  helping me to publish (i.e. to finish) some project or other.

        Certainly, it is simply unheard of in ecology that one could get through a dissertation with nothing publishable.

        You're looking at least 4yr of stipend, close on 100k of public money (or private money, which is no easier to come by, and has more strings). If you have a field omponent to a project, well after four or five years you could have a racked up 0.25 million dollars. if you were working in a remote area or with large mammals, try doubling that.

        Many of ny friends ran through at least that in the course of their doctorates. If nothing publishable emerges, heads would roll, and they wouldn't likely be working in the discipline after graduation. Hell, they wouldn't graduate in the first place.

        Just my experience and my discipline, but me and my friends worked our buts off for our doctorates, and you bet you ass we published our work.

        the past keeps knock knock knockin' on my door. and i don't want to hear it anymore. (Lou Reed)

        by Boreal Ecologist on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:33:52 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Applied linguistics--second language acquisition (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          unterhausen, plf515

          In this discipline there is little grant support, so the requirement to publish is less.

          Of course, some kind of work published or presented at an important conference is important.  

          Of course, many people do publish in some form their research and this helps for tenure.

          The wise are driven by reason; ordinary minds, by experience; the stupid, by necessity, and brutes by instinct. Cicero

          by MoDem on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:40:41 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Some more thoughts in committees: (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        WI Deadhead, kredwyn, plf515
        Agree with you, good committee choices are central. Also suggest that:

        1. For committee chair, pick someone younger, perhaps not as well known and serving on fewer committees. Bigger names are sometimes overwhelmed with students and have less time. Fine to put them on the committee but younger chairs are likely to give you the time you need and have a vested interest in seeing you get through - their quest for tenure is partly riding on it.

        2. Balance committee for things that are truly useful rather than just "nice guys - or gals," e.g. someone who's good on theoretical stuff, someone with expertise in statistics (if you need that), someone who writes well, etc.

        3. And always, always make sure members get along. My committee was truly helpful. My daughter had a committee from hell - two of her members had major disagreements and she was caught in the middle.

        My 2 cents.

        The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell

        by Psyche on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:56:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  or (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, lil love

      marry your shrink...

    •  I couldn't agree more! (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kredwyn, plf515, lil love

      Also remember the corollary:  If you're married to someone who isn't understanding/saintly, don't go back to school!

      Getting divorced will add a year minimum to the time it takes to get your degree, largely due to loss of ability to concentrate.  If you have children, it will add three or more years.

      Honesty is the best policy!

      by oscarsdad on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:50:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  as silly as it sounds, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WI Deadhead, rocketito, plf515, lil love

      I always felt that my biggest handicap was being single throughout my graduate years (I met my wife 14 days after getting the Ph.D.).  The married students -- at least the ones in stable marriages with supportive, wage-earning spouses -- had a much higher standard of living, were more productive, and finished earlier.

    •  a saint is needed... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rocketito, plf515, oscarsdad, lil love

      Smack in the first semester of my MA, my first fiance decided that grad school was not what he signed up for.

      Just before I took my doctoral comps, my second fiance  announced that he'd been lying to me for a year and a half and dropped the truth on me with a late night phonecall.

      Although that pretty much ended the second engagement, it was going downhill really quick when he realised that doctor school is nothing like undergrad school.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:55:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Can you link this diary to issues in progressive (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RickD, AaronBa, plf515

    politics? I have a Ph.D., and I work in an area where one is required. I am sympathetic to the problems that graduate students face. However, I would like to see you link some of these issues to the general purpose of the dK site. This is meant as a question, not a criticism.

    •  The audience (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rocketito, plf515

      I understand your comment, but there is a significant number of people here who have PhDs and are in academic.

      In fact, as a professor in a college of arts and sciences, I think was in the core group that supported Dean in 2004.

      The wise are driven by reason; ordinary minds, by experience; the stupid, by necessity, and brutes by instinct. Cicero

      by MoDem on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:20:31 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are wonderful diaries to be written on the (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        plf515

        politics of academia, but this dairy does not really address those issues.

        •  You are right (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          WI Deadhead, blue jersey mom, plf515

          Of xourse, this is right.  I have been reading National Review Online and their group Phi Beta Cons. This is a place that despises higher education in the country.

          Even more dangerous are the ideas from Richard Vedder.

          If I had more time, I would regularly post on the claims these two sites are making about higher education.

          In the meantime, I have no trouble with our colleagues who want to share some of their insights on activities that many of us have engaged in, engage in now, or are thinking about engaging in in the future.

          The wise are driven by reason; ordinary minds, by experience; the stupid, by necessity, and brutes by instinct. Cicero

          by MoDem on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:36:23 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I don't believe (0+ / 0-)

          that was the intention of the diary.

        •  It's all fine (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          clonecone, cardinal, plf515

          There are tangents on dKos. Possum has written about how her family used to eat what they killed.

          Al Rodgers posts Entertainment news....much to my dismay.

          So...really, it's fine.

          •  No Tangents on dKos Allowed (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            MoDem, RonV, coigue, plf515

            Must relate the discussion of getting a PhD with the new torture bill passing through the senate! No more warnings!

            George W. Bush is just like Forrest Gump. Except that Forrest Gump is honest and cares about other people.

            by easong on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:35:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I see all sorts of linkages..... (6+ / 0-)

              between being a graduate student and torture.

              •  ABD is an Arabic (0+ / 0-)

                word for slave

                and I've known professors who took that idea almost literally with their grad students

                Be VERY careful who you choose as a mentor.

                Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

                by plf515 on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 03:40:23 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  Wise words (0+ / 0-)
                •  Beware your major advisor (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  plf515

                  This is my first post to Dkos. But I couldn't hold back any longer after seeing this diary entry.  I'm sitting here in the stacks of books, papers, and general chaos that is my house post chapter 5.

                  I couldn't agree more with this post (and others) about the dangers of choosing a major advisor with an agenda.  I've made the mistake and am living with the consquences now.  

                  My advisor has an agenda that seems to change fairly often. I'm praying that I can defend soon...but make sure you do the following before picking your advisor:

                  1. Take at least 2 classes from him or her.
                  1. Find other students who have used this person as chair or committee member for feedback.  
                  1. Never take any of it as the gospel.  Trust your instincts.

                  I had subtle warnings, but I ignored them and am now in limbo hoping that the princess of caprice and the arbitrary will let me proceed.  

                  I hope this helps.  It felt good to write it down at least.  

                  •  This is more good advice (0+ / 0-)

                    My mentor was a wonderful and helpful person (although, interestingly, he was a TERRIBLE teacher in a class).  But, despite 30 years in the same department, he didn't know much about the 'jots and tittles' .....correct margins, copies, dates, and such.  I made sure to get someone on my committee who DID know all that.  ESPECIALLY as that sort of thing drives me nuts.

                    But I have lots of horror stories from other people who did not choose so well.  One friend of mine was required to make her mentor's dinner reservations, pick up dry cleaning, and so on.

                    Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

                    by plf515 on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 06:00:39 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

      •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

        During Adlai Stevenson's 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to him, "You have the vote of every thinking person!" Stevenson called back, "That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

        -7.50 -6.56 | Why is it that those who can remember that those who forget history are bound to repeat it are bound to repeat it?

        by cmanaster on Fri Oct 13, 2006 at 10:47:12 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  There are a couple of tangential links (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WI Deadhead, rocketito

      I've not seen formal research, but I think people with PhDs tend to be more liberal than those without.

      Since most people reading this diary will be Democrats, if this helps them, it helps the Democratic  party.

      People with PhDs can help the party in various ways.

      But I have no direct link.

      Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

      by plf515 on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:47:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How 'bout Labor issues? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rocketito, plf515

      Most grad students are working TA positions that pay next to nothing.

      Some of them have healthcare...others...not really.

      There are also some class issues that a friend of mine in "class studies" is far better capable of discussing. From her studies, it's tougher for students from working class backgrounds and minorities to run the gauntlet from gradschool to hiring process. It's all bloody expensive at times.

      Oh...and the political issue of the economy--federal student loans for grad students...and the cutting thereof.

      Plus there's this little thing about academic jobs. Many state schools are cutting their budgets dramatically. Part of this is because states are cutting their budgets and channeling money over to Homeland Security programs and first responder budgets. Or at least they were a year or so ago.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 06:05:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  There are some good issues (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kredwyn

        in power and how to work in low power positions, and the ethics of being in a high-power position, and so on.

        Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

        by plf515 on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 03:41:43 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Topic selection: another tip... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gong, Beet, Kingsmeg, plf515

    Pick a project where: if the answer is "no" to the research, it is interesting and you can write about it.  If the answer is "yes", it is interesting and you can write about it.

    If you get into year 5, and "no" is the answer but that's not interesting, you are screwed....

    •  An excellent (0+ / 0-)

      suggestion.

      In many of the social sciences, at least, they can't turn down your diss just because the results were inconclusive.  But publishing is nice, even here.

      Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

      by plf515 on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:48:17 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And be sure to be able to answer... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515

      the most important question that you'll probably get during the defense:

      So What?

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 06:06:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  you have to want it - I found out I didn't (5+ / 0-)

    I was able to change the assigned advisor to one more to my liking, but unfortunately she was on leave when I went through a crisis and realized the topic I was doing really didn't make sense with the theoretical framework I was trying to use.  Someone else not on my committee was subbing for her with me that term, and approved my new theoretical framework, but somehow the momentum had been lost.

    I had to rewrite my dissertation proposal.  I was almost completed that process, having worked out the kinks with my advisor, who was then back, when I realized that I no longer cared about my topic enough to (a) defend the proposal (b) then do the study (which actually was a fairly trivial part of the process, since most of it was examining documents, and only a small part a survey of the selected population, © then write it up and defend it.  I knew I could finish, and how to finish, and then I had to decide if I really wanted to.

    Because of the change of theoretical framework, I was now paying my own way, and no longer on unversity funds.  It was going to cost me a minimum of $5,800 of my own to finish.  In my school district we have a Masters + 60 ladder, and the difference between that and the doctoral ladder is less than 600/year.  I expected to teach at the point I quite perhaps another 12-13 years.  Meanwhile, instead of finishing the doctorate I could do national board certification, with all fees paid by the school system and the state board of ed, and were I successful get 5,000 more the first year and then 4,000 for each of the next ten years.

    My justification for seeking the doctorate had been that I wanted the union card - I wanted to be able to teach parttime in a teacher training program, and I wanted to be able to participate seriously in discussions about educational policy.  I had already assumed the role of peer reviewer for several professional publications.

    I realized that I probably would not be able to mix university teaching in a meaningful way with the kind of teaching I was doing.  And I found that my interest in educational policy could be more fruitfully addressed in a different fashion, one that came to include a major portion of my blogging efforts.

    Also, the one member of my committee who really understand what I was doing from the perspective of a classroom teacher left the university.  While I could have probably prevailed on her to remain on my committee - she was at another u in the area - it seemed like just one more indicator that this was probably not meant to be.  My wife, who took 11 years to do her doctorate, was understandbly furious with me.  After all, I had aced my comprehensives, the hard part (finding a topic) was done, and I knew how to finish.

    But I had lost interest.  And while I have occasionally in the past few years looked back, I do not regret making the decision.

    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH!

    by teacherken on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:23:19 PM PDT

  •  Two tips (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beet, rocketito, kredwyn, coigue, plf515
    1. Find and post above your desk in a visible place Matt Groenig's "Graduate School in Hell" cartoon.  It will give you most of the advice you need.
    1. I suspect that far more people begin grad school than finish.  It is SO EASY to get lost in the details and never finish the darn dissertation.  If you are not a goal-oriented person, think twice before attempting a PhD.

    I began grad school and only made it one year, for a variety of reasons.  But I have a strong appreciation for how hard it is to attain that degree and a vast amount of respect for anyone who does.  It's just about one of the hardest things a person can do in our time.  So if you've done it, major, major kudos.

    Never give up! Never surrender!

    by oscarsmom on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:46:13 PM PDT

  •  Take stock - what do you enjoy ? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beet, plf515, oscarsdad

    People overlook doing what really interests them, like the sort of things they do as a hobby. As if they are somehow obligated to dosomething that doesn't interest them

    Somewhere there is someone that is doing the academic equivalent of what you do for fun.

    Look at the literature in that field, and get to know the people

    •  This is why I went for a PhD. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515

      I liked the science/technical side of my work, but as I aged, I kept getting pushed towards management.  I wanted to get the degree to force employers to give me something to do other than straight people management.

      Honesty is the best policy!

      by oscarsdad on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:54:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Advice to Chemists and Biochemists (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RonV, WI Deadhead, plf515

    You don't pick your dissertation topic, you do pick your research advisor. So pick wisely. Go with a famous asshole at your own peril. Choose a red hot upstart, make him/her famous.

    George W. Bush is just like Forrest Gump. Except that Forrest Gump is honest and cares about other people.

    by easong on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 04:53:47 PM PDT

  •  Does anyone know what to do when.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515

    you've completed your classes, you've aced your comprehensives, you've selected a tentative dissertation topic for which you have a passion, and then realize you've made the mistake of doing all this in a program where the faculty (including your committee) isn't really all that interested or knowledgable in your area of research?

    My girlfriend is a foreign student here on a scholarship and she's staring down the barrel of this problem.  Is this situation workable?  Should she quit?  Can she transfer?  

    •  Had that trouble. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515

      Had completed everything and was at the prospectus stage. Struggled for a year with the advisor, the equipment (which she said worked and I knew didn't). One of the most difficult things I ever did was to drop the topic (one I was passionately interested in). The best decision I ever made was to take the advice of someone who recommended that I pick a new topic that was more realistic and less complicated even if I was less attached to it. Went from prospectus to data gathering to write-up and approval within one year. Moreover, it opened up exciting new possibilities in terms of specialization.

      The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell

      by Psyche on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:10:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  In my experience (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kredwyn

      only your mentor needs to really be into what you are doing, the committee can just 'go along for the ride'.  But other programs and other committees are different

      Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

      by plf515 on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:20:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  mine too (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kredwyn, plf515

        In fact, the "too many captains" thing can get in your way, as it did with some of my friends.  In my experience (social science), having one captain and four readers worked very well.  Of course, if your captain is a dick, then that can hold you back too.  

    •  I Went Through 4 Grad Programs (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, Beet, plf515

      Four different advisors. One hated me, one I hated, one moved away, one kicked my ass into shape. Never say quit, and don't compromise one second before you must. Work with the best.

      George W. Bush is just like Forrest Gump. Except that Forrest Gump is honest and cares about other people.

      by easong on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:38:56 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Can't really transfer... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515

      Can she trouble shoot and look around campus for someone to add to her committee that is interested in her topic?

      My topic was pretty different from most stuff that'd gone through that department. But ultimately, I was able to work my prospectus so that it did what I wanted it to do while dealing with one of the interests of my director.

      Some people I know brought in folks from other departments to be on their committees.

      "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

      by kredwyn on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 06:13:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  PhD student's first-hand account (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beet, coigue, John DE, plf515

    Science Careers (full disclosure: I'm the managing editor) has an ongoing series called Educated Woman, where a PhD student gives a first-person account of her journey from BA to PhD. The writer, Micella Phoenix DeWhyse (a pseudonym), recently gained her doctorate in materials science, and in her new article, she gives a retrospective of the high and low points in her quest. Check out the series for first-hand, humorous, and concrete advice to fellow PhD questers.

  •  A useful perspective... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rocketito, kredwyn, plf515, oscarsmom

    I've been in two graduate programs in different fields, one in Maryland (math, left after a year) and one in Seattle (biotechnology, graduated).  In both cases, it was clear that the professors wanted everyone to succeed.  I felt a lot less pressure during the qualifying/general exams than a lot of the other students, because I understood that the exams were intended to train me, not judge me.

    What you are doing in graduate school is fundamentally different than what you did in high school or as an undergraduate.  In high school you're learning general knowledge, about equally useful (or not) no matter what you will do in the future.  As an undergraduate, you're still learning mostly general information for a variety of possible jobs in a broad field.  In graduate school, you are training for a fairly narrow set of future jobs, and everything you do is aimed at preparing you for those jobs.  The professors who define your program are working in your field, and know what it takes to prepare you to succeed.

    So when your exams come up, don't panic.  Don't waste time wondering whether or not you'll pass. Ask for feedback from your friends and professors, because they want you to succeed.  Look at your requirements as a contract between you and your professors, and do your job.

    Honesty is the best policy!

    by oscarsdad on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:22:28 PM PDT

  •  Possibly related side note: (6+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    catfish, rocketito, kredwyn, coigue, plf515, va dare

    PhD is pretty good preparation for starting your own company. The parallels are remarkable:

    *Lots of ramen noodles
    *Lots of scutwork that they hire people to do in stable situations
    *Outcome is unclear
    *Changes in direction are likely (and sometimes interesting, sometimes not)
    *Workload is similar to first year grad school, with rotations, teaching, classwork, and actual life all clashing continuously.  Impossible to do any one thing at 100% quality....

    Just so you'll know....

  •  Re: tip #1 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515

    There is a third method, though it's much more difficult. You can select a topic that deeply interests you for which there is no natural mentor available in your program. A good friend of mine is doing that, and although it's going to be much more difficult for him, it looks like he's going to have an incredible dissertation because he has been able to develop an extensive network of contacts at other universities who are willing to help. They're not eligible to be on his committee, but they can provide the expertise his committee lacks.

    Thwarting the forces of idiocy since 1978. -6.38, -6.00

    by wiscmass on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:28:45 PM PDT

    •  OK true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wiscmass

      I left that one out because I thought it was the way that most people would sort of choose by default, without realizing that it was making things difficult.

      Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

      by plf515 on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 03:45:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How to get a PhD (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Beet, kredwyn, coigue, plf515

    Can't I just buy one online? I get at least 20 spammails a day offering me a degree in minutes.

  •  What I learned (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rocketito, kredwyn, plf515

    The most important thing is that you be passionate about the subject matter.  You will be asked to read tons of material -- more than you ever thought possible -- on the same narrow subject, as well as on the methods used to study the subject.  You'll have 5, 7, sometimes 10 years of extremely low pay, no respect (from the students you TA, your relatives, the women you try to date, etc.), uncertainty at every stage, immersion in the culture of grad-student paranoia which only looks silly in retrospect, 30-year-olds crammed into small apartments, etc.

    If you can't see yourself doing anything but teaching or researching that subject, then it's absolutely, 100% worth the trouble.  But it's certainly not something to undertake simply because you want to delay entry into the real world.

    •  I started off (0+ / 0-)

      with a topic that ionterested me greatly (cognitively gifted people - and data analysis of a 50 longitudinal study of 1000 people.  That got shot down.

      Then I did one on a very narrow topic that wasn't so interesting to me, but I got it done in less than 2 years.

      Republicans believe government is the enemy. When they're in charge, they're right

      by plf515 on Sun Sep 24, 2006 at 03:48:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Or you could do it the way Tom Kean Jr did (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    oceanview, rocketito, plf515

    by investing 50K each in the two largest oil companies, run for state senator (NJ), and then go to an out of state university for your coursework, taking time out to get George W. Bush re-selected, then come back and try to bluff your way into the US Senate, by taking money from Cheney and running away from him when he visits, ditto when Bush visits, and then sliming a guy who actually did something about corruption in New Jersey (Menendez), and have all the newspapers and TV stations run with your talking points instead of visiting their own internal libraries, to tell you how basically dishonest you are. Truth is stranger than the Supranos.

  •  On having been through the PhD process... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    easong, catfish, rocketito, plf515
    1. Make sure that you have a damn good support network.
    1. If you're involved with someone, remind that person that Doctor school is a whole different world and that between TAships, research, and reading most of your time is going to be not with them. (NB: Your mate is not going to realise that until sometime in the first couple semesters.)
    1. Make sure that you write in time for self and others...and keep it.
    1. Comps are torture. If for some unknown reason you and your mate break up before you take these...seek out the school's counseling service. It will save your life.
    1. Dissertation directors are dreams or nightmares. Mine, though nice and perfect for the project I was working on, could make me cry from 1500 miles away.
    1. You will suffer Post Traumatic Dissertation Disorder when you're done. This takes about a year and a half to work out of your system.

    "Computer. End holographic program...Computer? Computer?"

    by kredwyn on Sat Sep 23, 2006 at 05:49:30 PM PDT

  •  When selecting a dissertation chair (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515

    check out how long the chair's other students took to get through. Some are good shepherds and get you through quickly. But some drag their feet and delay every phase of the project including reading and giving feedback. Choose wisely.

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