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Advice Before the School Year Starts


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I've been out of school for about two years and will be attending a Master's program in the fall, that includes a thesis and encourages research (as I'm sure most do). Ultimately, my plans are to pursue a Ph.D. in a field of Psychology, but the issue is that I don't have a clear idea of what field I'd like to go into. My primary background is in social psychology, but I have some interests in community psych. I have a few questions and would appreciate any feedback for any of them. 

Is there anything you did during the summer to prepare for the semester that was particularly helpful? 

Where can I find ideas for research for my thesis? I'm generally interested in lots of things and I'm hoping to find information about multiple topics to kind of formulate my own research interests. 

Lastly, is there anything I should be reading or reviewing to get myself back in the school spirit? 


Again, any help/advice will be greatly appreciated! Thank you. 

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One of the most helpful things I did before starting my Master's was increase my reading volume.  I've always liked to read, but grad school requires so much more reading than what I was doing for fun.  As for what to read it couldn't hurt to read some of the articles published by professors in the program you'll be attending.  It also wouldn't hurt to read articles in community psych or any other area that intrigues you.  Broadly reading in this way lead me to my research questions because my focus was on what have I been curious about rather than what should I research.

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At this point I'm just 1) finishing work I still have left with my former program (papersssss! publishing!), 2) inform myself on research the faculty is performing. I ordered some books to read over the next couple of months and whenever I'm in transport I watch Youtube videos in which staff discusses their research (free and good wifi here in Korea), 3) build my stats skills. I'm a quant nerd haha - currently teaching myself R.


As for your interests for a thesis - look at what faculty is doing, you'll probably be most likely working in line with someone's line of work. Maybe read some of their recent papers, and formulate some broad thoughts on that. Take classes on topics that interest you (I'm auditing some things on coursera now). I've also always benefited from reading outside my discipline.


And don't stress yourself too much. You're not expected to start your Master with a grand plan of things you will research and achieve!

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You definitely do NOT need to have your thesis figured out before you start, or even in your first semester. Some of the things you learn in class should inform the topic you ultimately focus on for your thesis. I found my MA thesis topic by reading news articles and finding something I wanted to know more about. That quest to better understand it because my thesis project. So read widely and broadly in your field and on the edges of it. You never know where inspiration can come from!*

In terms of preparation, if you have an old intro/general psych book or stats book around, it might be worth it just to flip through and make sure you remember key concepts. If you were really being ambitious, you could read scholarship written by the faculty in the department you're joining. More helpful though would probably be reading MA theses from your department that were completed in recent years. Not necessary but it'll help you get a sense of the scope of a MA project.

Good luck! Have fun! And, don't forget to enjoy your summer!

*An even cooler anecdote about that. I went to an artist talk where the artist explained that the entire series was inspired by being in the grocery line and seeing a headline about how bees and redheads were going extinct. Again, you never know where and when it'll come.

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