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GirlRichard

"Find professors you want to study with"

7 posts in this topic

Hi everyone, 

My advisor said to narrow my list down depending on the professors I want to study with at each university. What is the best way to go about researching the professors? How will I really know?

 

(Background: I'm in a M.S.Ed program and I am applying this year for PhD programs. I have a list of 12 schools, and I want to narrow it down to no more than six. I am currently very happy at my Uni and would love to continue the PhD program here, but I want to see where I can get in elsewhere as well and weigh my options.)

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3 minutes ago, GirlRichard said:

My advisor said to narrow my list down depending on the professors I want to study with at each university. What is the best way to go about researching the professors? How will I really know?

Each program will have bios of faculty on their sites. Depending on the university, some of the bios will have publications of the faculty listed, as well.  One of my mentors in undergrad told me to look at the current grad students. If my level of accomplishments look similar to existing grad students and the program has professors in my area of focus, then it's probably a good fit and I stand a good chance of being admitted. That is exactly what I did last year.

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Thank you cowgirlsdontcry! I also found strangefox's post below very helpful. If anyone has any other advice, let me know! Thanks!!

 

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I am also interested in this question as I'm currently researching professors. I've been trying to find books or articles and read some of their work, and how it was reviewed by their peers. Aside from the academics, I really want to a good working relationship with someone. My current faculty advisor rapport has me spoiled as we really get along well. 

This is sort of a tangential question, which I hope you don't mind me adding in. While I know rate my professor is fraught with issues and requires really reading between the lines, does an overall poor rating affect or factor into anyone's decisions? Does it give you pause or what other factors should one consider, aside from the fact more people leave feedback about a bad experience, when reading a slew of bad reviews in someone who otherwise looks like a good fit? 

I've also been advised to try to meet as many of these professors as possible. I'll be attending a few conferences this fall which will give me an opportunity to do so, the others I will probably email to start. 

 

 

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11 hours ago, NotAlice said:

This is sort of a tangential question, which I hope you don't mind me adding in. While I know rate my professor is fraught with issues and requires really reading between the lines, does an overall poor rating affect or factor into anyone's decisions? Does it give you pause or what other factors should one consider, aside from the fact more people leave feedback about a bad experience, when reading a slew of bad reviews in someone who otherwise looks like a good fit? 

Honestly, I never look at RMP for anyone (including myself). Only the most angry/upset students will go to RMP to vent and such one-sided narratives are difficult to assess without additional information/data. Also, it's likely that those leaving RMP reviews are undergraduates and there really aren't that many parallels between an undergrad's experience and what you'll have as a graduate student. I mean, are undergrads really leaving reviews about a prof's ability to serve as a mentor, help one with fellowship applications or identifying relevant primary sources/data sets/archives, or feedback on manuscripts? Probably not since few undergrads have those interactions with a faculty member and those that do are probably not the ones ranting and raving on RMP. 

You're better served talking to someone's current graduate students or recently completed PhD students if you want to get a sense of their personality, how they work with students, etc. 

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13 hours ago, NotAlice said:

I am also interested in this question as I'm currently researching professors. I've been trying to find books or articles and read some of their work, and how it was reviewed by their peers. Aside from the academics, I really want to a good working relationship with someone. My current faculty advisor rapport has me spoiled as we really get along well. 

This is sort of a tangential question, which I hope you don't mind me adding in. While I know rate my professor is fraught with issues and requires really reading between the lines, does an overall poor rating affect or factor into anyone's decisions? Does it give you pause or what other factors should one consider, aside from the fact more people leave feedback about a bad experience, when reading a slew of bad reviews in someone who otherwise looks like a good fit? 

I've also been advised to try to meet as many of these professors as possible. I'll be attending a few conferences this fall which will give me an opportunity to do so, the others I will probably email to start.

Seconding @rising_star's suggestion to avoid RMP reviews for selecting graduate advisors. From my experience, there is little correlation between teaching ability and mentoring/advising ability. I know many profs who are great teachers but I would never want to work with them. And many profs have rave reviews about mentoring from my friends but their teaching is a little lacking! In addition, I think that each student has their own set of criteria for what makes good teaching or mentoring/advising, so it's already very subjective anyways.

I also think student reviews based on teaching should be taken with an extra grain of salt because I think students often do not have all the information at hand and will assess situations with missing or sometimes incorrect data. For example, my PhD school (like most schools) had end-of-term course evals for both the instructor and the TAs that the students fill out. I do read these reviews because they could provide good feedback, especially in the open-ended long answer feedback box. But, in one year, in this box, a student wrote saying that they really disliked the homework grading scheme but that they didn't blame me (the TA) since I had to follow policy. However, the grading scheme was actually my choice (with instructor approval) so the instructor got the blame for no reason! When we introduced the grading scheme, we felt no need to tell the students who came up with what, so I could understand why the student assumed that I was "just following orders", but it's an example where missing information / wrong assumptions led to an incorrect assessment.

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