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Found 7 results

  1. I just finished the first term/semester of the first year of my political science PhD. Just a few things for next year's incoming cohort: Learn how to code in R. Don't fight the inevitable, just learn it. - This is the most important advice I can give to anyone entering a PhD program next year who doesn't have a strong computer programming/coding background. In the past, users on here have emphasized how important quant methods are ad nauseam, and this is true and I don't want to take away from it. You do need to understand undergraduate algebra based statistics. You do need to know basic concepts like hypothesis testing, linear regression and p values, ordinary least squares, t-tests and average treatment effects. What you also need to know that is as important as a basic knowledge of stats is a basic knowledge of coding in the 'R' language. R is a computer coding language similar to Python but a bit more customizable and complex. It has become the gold standard for a lot of social science PhD programs. Python is also important and used more than R outside of polisci specifically so try to learn that too if you can. Polisci PhD students (in North America at least) are no longer doing stats on paper or in Stata or in SPSS; almost everything is being done in R. My entire first year PhD quant methods framework uses the R language, as did my master's degree quant courses. It's no longer enough to have a basic intro to stats; you need to know how to do those stats in R. If you aren't familiar yet with R or with coding in general, take an online class and download R Studio and learn how to code in R markdown and then practice applying quant analysis to sample datasets/data frames. Learn how to code functions, plots and tables. It will make the first year of your PhD so much easier. You can learn R during your first year and some in my cohort are doing that right now, but they are struggling because of the extra workload. It's enough to be dealing with all of the other pressures of the first year and the required coursework; also learning how to code from scratch simultaneously is just one extra thing that you don't need. And for those who are thinking "It's ok, I plan on doing mostly qualitative/ethnographic etc research and I don't need to know R", trust me, unless you are a theory student, you will be using R. It isn't possible anymore to avoid R or computer coding in the majority of North American polisci PhD programs if you are a non-theory student. So much of the field has moved from observational to experimental and from qualitative to quantitative that even if it isn't what you plan to do professionally, ever, you still have to learn how to do it. I think the logic is that if you're going to be competitive in applying for academic/TT jobs some day, you at least need to know enough about quant methods and coding in particular to be able to explain it to your students even if you avoid doing it yourself. Don't stress if you don't like your field(s)/subfield(s) What most North American polisci PhD programs have in common is that you have to choose one or two fields/subfields (comparative, IR, theory, development, policy, American, etc). Some people, including myself, go into a polisci PhD sure of the field we are interested in studying and then change our minds a few weeks or months in. Sometimes it even happens after the first year. Fields are NOT set in stone when you are starting out and it's ok if you want to change. The tradeoff is that if you change fields after you start your PhD, depending on how long you wait, you could be adding an extra term or an entire extra year to your PhD that might not be funded if you received a fixed amount of funding. I, for example, received 5 years of guaranteed funding, so if I stay past that for whatever reason, I'm on my own when it comes to money. It is what it is, but don't stress about being locked into a field/subfield. Also note that changing fields/subfields within a political science PhD program is different from changing your PI/advisor/supervisor. The size, culture, funding and other attributes of your PhD program will determine how much flexibility, or lack thereof, you'll have, but nothing is usually impossible if you have a change of heart after starting. Don't stress about online education My department/school started off this past fall semester in a hybrid with in-person and online courses and then switched to entirely online for everything once the second wave started a few months ago. Yes, online classes are not as good as in-person classes in just about every way, including networking with your cohort and in-person learning. I found it so much harder to do the weekly labs for my stats/coding course when everything went online because we were not together in the computer lab and I couldn't just ask the TA what a line of code meant in person. Personally, I'm not a fan of online education and I don't like Zoom. When we switched over to online only, one of my classes was in Zoom, one was in an Adobe program, one was in Microsoft Teams and a lab was in Blackboard Collaborate. Literally, every single one of my classes/labs used a different online learning program/method and it was very frustrating. It was a lot harder to do do these things this way, but it was not the end of the world. We got through it as a cohort, we commiserated over Zoom study sessions and on our cohort facebook page/group, and life went on. I'm happy to say that we didn't have any of the first term curriculum delayed because of COVID, and you won't either, whether everyone is vaccinated and everything is in-person in the fall of 2021 or it is still online. Hopefully it's the former, but if it's the latter, your department will make it work. If anyone who is still on here from last year is also just finishing the first term and has anything to add, please do. The single biggest piece of advice I have is to learn R as soon as possible. Even if you can't take a class on it, try some of the free online learning modules, download R Studio, use the sample datasets and start practicing with the mean function in R markdown. Also, I highly recommend one of the interactive texts we are using this year for our 3-course stats/R coding sequence, which is available in paper, PDF and Kindle formats: Kosuke Imai. Quantitative Social Science: An Introduction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017.
  2. I'm currently in my first year in a Ph.D. program coming in straight from my B.A. I came to work with a professor who is currently untenured, but most likely receiving tenure in the next few months. My first semester with them was okay—mostly because I met with them often because they were the instructor of one of my courses. Now in the spring, I've hardly seen them. They seem to always be busy, juggling many tasks and taking on new roles (and new student advisees for next Fall). I understand that graduate study is meant to train us to be independent scholars, but I've been left with many unresolved questions about many expectations (e.g. funding applications, foreign language acquisition, conferences & publications, thesis work, committee formation, etc) that this Ph.D. program has for me. Maybe I wouldn't have some of the questions I have if I had entered with an M.A., but I still feel very confused about a lot of the logistics of graduate study. Another second-year student who is also their advisee told me that he also has not gotten into much contact with our advisor—and has yet to update them on his changing research interests. The other day, a friend and I ran into my advisor. What shocked me was that when I waved at the professor, they didn't seem to notice me. And when my advisor approached us, they spoke only to my friend about how busy they were, hence why they supposedly hadn't answered my friend's email to set up an appointment for them. Since my advisor's up for tenure and have a multiple responsibilities, I want to give them the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe they had too much on their mind. What has really made things harder is that my research interests have been shifting dramatically, as I've mentioned. This is mostly due to realizing that my research questions have already been answered by some of the literature in my field that I was previously unfamiliar with. Without revealing too much, I am an Area Studies scholar, and essentially my research interests are shifting from one country of study to another. There also happen to be no professors in our department that deal with the new region I am interested in researching. Since I only have a B.A., I'm leaving the option of "mastering out"—leaving the program with only an M.A. and continuing my Ph.D. work in another—open for consideration. However, I realize that this decision might upset my professors, since they invested time, money, and energy into me as an asset for their program, and they're most likely expecting larger returns than only an M.A. I'm not sure whether it's worth sticking with a region that a professor in my department might be able to work with for the sake of having a less unstable graduate school journey... or whether I should consider transferring Ph.D. programs to have a scholar with more specialized knowledge on my country of interest. Have any of you had success is transferring Ph.D. programs like this? Do you think that the situation I've described with my advisor is worth having anxiety over, or is their behavior normal for most graduate advisors?
  3. Hey everyone! So I made my decision on where I will be going for graduate school, but now I'm trying to decide a place to live while attending. Since it's my first year away from home I didn't know if it's better to have roommates or if it doesn't matter. I've never lived away from home, so I'm not sure how I would handle living with a roommate, but I know it is usually a cheaper option and it could guarantee a friend to do some things with while I'm there. On the other hand, I am usually in my room doing my own thing and not one to want to leave the house or be really sociable so being alone would give me the privacy I want and freedom to do what I want with the place. If anyone has any advice on what they notice is better please help me! Thanks
  4. I'm coming to the end of my first year as a PhD student and I feel like I'm doing a bad job at research and school. I've felt behind my peers from the get-go, at least partly because I made a major field switch between my undergrad and graduate program. I'll explain my coursework troubles and research concerns separately. Coursework: I'm taking 3 classes this semester, which I realize is a lot. I have the same professor for two of the classes. After taking our last exam of the semester, this professor released a list of our names and ranks in his classes. I'm doing slightly below average even though it's my field of study. I received As on all the homeworks and Bs on the final exams. I know my grades are good, but now I feel like I'm underperforming and not cut out for a PhD. Research: I'm on an RA-ship this semester and getting almost no direction on the project I'm working on. As I mentioned before, I am completely new to this field of study. I don't feel that I know enough to be in charge of arranging and executing all of our measurements, but that is what I'm tasked with. I have weekly meetings with my advisor, and I know I should be grateful to at least have that. I prepare extensively beforehand, usually writing out a list of questions I have and putting together figures to explain what I did that week, but our meetings are never productive. He never seems to be listening to me and sometimes even plays guitar or grinds coffee beans while I'm speaking. I find it so incredibly rude and I leave the meetings feeling defeated and like I don't even know enough to be asking the right questions. I'm really shy, I take anxiety meds before our meetings to help me speak up, but even when I go in feeling confident I leave feeling like an idiot. Since I feel like I'm not making enough progress, I've resorted to ending the meetings by asking "Is there anything you think I should do this week?" I didn't think there was anything wrong with asking that until last week when we hosted a potential PhD recruit and my advisor mentioned that the screening exam was "to weed out grad students who need hand holding and weekly tasks to get any work done." I'm probably overthinking it, but it seemed like a slight at me. I realize some of this might be from self confidence issues I struggle with. I feel like I'm off to a bad start and I don't know what to do from here. Do I power through and pretend nothing's wrong? Do I drop out because I'm not cut out for it? I don't want to talk to my cohorts about it because my advisor is a very likeable guy and everyone seems to love him. It just feels like I'm behind the curve and not doing anything right.
  5. I graduated with my Bachelor's in Biology last May, and am currently about 4 months into my new PhD Program. Honestly, I am feeling extremely lonely and bored. Everyone in my cohort is much older than I am (worked a couple years in industry or already have their masters), and they are definitely not interested in making new friends. My life consists of classes in the morning, followed by lab, and going back home around 6 or 7 with not much to do aside from reading papers or studying. It's so different from my chaotic days in undergrad where I was working/taking classes/doing lab work/ volunteering etc. yet I got along with everyone and enjoyed what I was doing. I still love what I do, but it's starting to feel pretty isolating. Has anyone else felt this way during grad school?
  6. so, I'm a first year biomedical student and one of my core classes is not going well. We have about 20 lectures for each exam which is every 3.5 weeks. THATS A LOT FOR ME. Some of the lectures are straightforward to my understanding but when the exam comes, I get so lost in how to answer them. I feel like some of the professors make the questions extra hard. The questions seem so hypothetical that I cant correlate them to the lectures. Any help on how to study better and take on the exams better?
  7. I know there are threads about the amount of funding people have been offered etc. but I have a quandary. I have currently been rejected from 3/6 PhD programmes and accepted to 1. I am trying to wait patiently on the final two (which both guarantee funding) but all the rejections have knocked me a bit and I am not feeling super optimistic. I would be happy to attend the university I have an offer for, but they haven't offered me funding for the first year and the admissions officer told me that they don't normally offer TA/RAships to first years and only 50% of people get one in the 2nd year. I am not sure whether this is because a lot of people are part-time in my field and therefore don't want one or if there are just very few available - I fear the latter is more likely. At present I have spoken to admissions and explained that I am unable to attend without funding and the officer has said he will speak to the department. My questions really are: 1) Have any of you had to negotiate funding and what did you find was the best way to do so? I don't really feel like I have a strong bargaining hand since I don't have funded offers elsewhere and I really can't go without funding. I am an international student and couldn't possibly afford the fees (even if I wanted to) and I surely won't get a visa without proof I can afford the first year (including living costs as well as fees). 2) I now feel that it would be rude to speak directly to my proposed supervisor in the department about this, since the admissions officer said he will speak to the department and this may come across as overstepping him. However, was I wrong to speak to admissions rather than my supervisor first? Do you think I should still contact my supervisor and explain that I am excited about attending but concerned about funding? To be honest any advice you can give would be helpful.
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