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How much research is enough?


tgf123

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From what I've heard, at least 3+ years. Publications and presentations really help but you don't need them if you have quality research experience. Many students have completed an honors thesis and worked in multiple labs. It is also common for people to take time off to work as a full time RA.

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It used to be that 2 years + a thesis was enough, but with more and more applicants, the process is much more competitive now.

Without publications you'll probably need an extra year or two. Its hard to predict, though.

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At the time of application, I had 2 1/2 MONTHS of experience working in a lab (and only as a 5-hour-a-week volunteer).

I have worked on two independent experimental projects AS A PHILOSOPHER.

I have no (meaningful) publications, and at the time of application, I have only presented work at philosophy conferences. (Non-major philosophy conferences at that.)

It is neither necessary nor sufficient to have multiple years of research experience, publications, etc., etc. to be considered at very good universities.

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I am an undergrad in the process of interviews etc. Up to this point I have 2.5 years of research experience. Did an honors thesis, had a bunch of conference presentations, submitted a paper to a journal pending review. Took some grad courses, worked on another paper that I am polishing up for submission. I would hope this is good enough.. dry.gif

But what you realize is that if they interview you as an undergrad, you are often outnumbered by people who have masters or have real world experiences (at least in my experience this is what it has been like during interviews).

If I had any advice for anyone doing this process in the coming years, it would be do an honors thesis, go to conferences and if at all possible submit your work to a journal. It doesn't have to be accepted.. but as long as you can say in review on your CV I personally think that is enough from what I've heard.

The icing on the cake is that my recommendations came from my honors advisor/committee. And some of the POI’s have mentioned I got really good recs, but of course wouldn’t give details.

Edited by GNC
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I won't pretend that I'm at all qualified to answer this question since I haven't completed the interview process and can't speak to my success, but I'm inclined to stress the value of fit, i.e. convergence of specific research interests. If I've published multiple papers that advance crossed categorization theory but have little interest in, say, social dominance theory (or if my experience can't even be construed to have anything to do with the latter), then social dominance theorists aren't going to be as interested in me as someone with less experience but who has promising ideas about social dominance theory. Every grad student and professor with whom I've spoken has said that high compatibility gets you much farther than generic excellence alone. If you have both, that's great, but I think it's fallacious to assume that people can gain admission to competitive programs just because they have published when their publications don't even pique the interest of faculty.

So contact your POIs to discuss their current and planned research projects! Then read their work and brainstorm original ways to extend their work/theories meaningfully. And continue working on research that's relevant to what your POIs do. But seriously, please don't beat yourself up if you can't publish; most Ph.D. students are lucky to publish once or twice before they graduate. In all, I really do believe that linking your research experience with your POI's interests will prove far more fruitful than just looking for a magical combination of years in a lab, presentations, publications, etc. You're not applying for tenure; you're seeking a good match!

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I will echo HyacinthMccaw. It's all about fit. Top programs may admit 2-5% of applicants, and you can be assured that no matter how awesome you are, there are people with much more experience than you, much better grades, a much better GRE etc... Many of those people get rejected. I had one of my current advisors explain to me that unless you are in the department and know exactly what they are looking for in an applicant at any given time, your acceptance is largely due to luck. Perhaps, say, I mentioned one thing in my SOP as a future research endeavor. By just that interest and a faculty member who is also interested in that one area (which may just be a thought in their head, and not anything that you would know about based on your research of that faculty member), that could lead to an interview more so than an applicant who has extensively studied in the field that their POI is a major player in. I think one's best bet in searching out POIs is to not only have an interest in what a professor HAS done, but to also know what their future plans are so you can see if your interests down the road will align with the direction that they are taking their studies down the road. Of course, you have to show that you've done research, and that you like it and want to continue as a researcher, but there is absolutely no necessary amount of research that you must have conducted to be considered in any program.

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Hi! I was just wondering how much research experience do admitted students to top programs usually have. I'm trying to get as much as possible, but I don't know where to set the bar.

I agree with everyone, and just want to share that I know a person who graduated from college and took 2 years off to work as a full-time RA. He had 11 publications by the time he applied to grad school.

I think SOP is the most important thing because it actually shows your thought and insights, whereas for publications, I have seen people being list as authors simply because they helped proof-read the manuscript.

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I agree with everyone, and just want to share that I know a person who graduated from college and took 2 years off to work as a full-time RA. He had 11 publications by the time he applied to grad school.

I think SOP is the most important thing because it actually shows your thought and insights, whereas for publications, I have seen people being list as authors simply because they helped proof-read the manuscript.

Good lord, what subdiscipline is this person in? In mine, social, that would be impossible because of lag times in peer review and publication. Many assistant professors don't have that many publications.

And I agree with you: Sometimes with undergrads professors will throw them authorship because of the perception that it will help them a lot at that stage in their career, even if their contribution wasn't especially significant.

For everybody else: There are always outliers; do not compare yourself to somebody with 11 pubs.

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I'm a first-year PhD student currently so I went through all the interview craziness last year. I was really surprised by how much experience everyone I interviewed with had! I'd done some smallish research projects in undergrad, but nothing related to the field I'm in now and nothing impressive at all. I then spent two years in the UK doing postgrad research (I was in a Masters program, but I never handed in my thesis). I thought I'd kind of taken the long road to grad school but almost everyone else I interviewed with at four schools had a full-time RA or lab manager position for at least a year, or a Masters degree. Many had more than a year full-time - in addition to an Honors thesis and whatever undergraduate research they'd done. I would say maybe 10% of the interviewees were still in undergrad. I wish someone had told me this years ago! I came out of undergrad feeling terrible that I hadn't gotten into any of the prestigious American programs I'd applied to, and I had no idea that full-time RA positions were common in the least - we didn't have any at my undergrad school.

Also, while I agree that fit is incredibly important, I did find that you don't need to have amazing fit between your prior research experience and your POI's interests, but rather between your stated future research plans and your POI's interests. I'm working on a very different project now than I did in the UK, and have never really done anything like this before (i.e. I do infant research now and had previously never tested anyone younger than 5). I just happened to have become intrigued by something that my advisor recently became very interested in too - she hasn't published anything on the topic yet, so I had no idea she even cared about this until another professor mentioned it when I was preparing my applications. And in terms of measuring how good your research experience is, I didn't get my Masters degree and also didn't publish anything from my work there. However, my advisor (and other profs I interviewed with last year) were impressed by the content of the research anyway - they seemed to like that I'd run a whole bunch of cohesive studies all trying to get at one fairly interesting question.

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Hi, first year grad student in social psych here. Just wanted to drop a message about things I've learned about the application process from the other side (that I didn't get from this site last year).

I remember that the predominant focus when I was hanging around here was about individual difference factors - GPA, amount of research, etc. That's all important. But, I would say equally strong situational forces include fit, need, and priority. Research fit is fluid, and even established POIs may change interests over time. Need fluctuates with a POI's workload, and priority fluctuates depending on the need of other faculty in the dept. For example, beginning assistant professors are given MUCH higher priority from a much smaller pool of interested applicants than more established professors.

Contacting POIs at the beginning of the application season can give you an estimate of these factors, but it's important to keep that in mind regardless. Things can change. Just because you may not have heard from a particular POI does not really reflect much on you. In addition, admissions do not necessarily work with clear goals in mind (1 student for Professor X, 2 for Y, etc.). For example, I know professor Z has not been able to accept any of his applicants. But if Professor X's one accept declines, than professor Z gets to accept his first choice (and Professor X does not get his second choice).

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Hi, first year grad student in social psych here. Just wanted to drop a message about things I've learned about the application process from the other side (that I didn't get from this site last year).

I remember that the predominant focus when I was hanging around here was about individual difference factors - GPA, amount of research, etc. That's all important. But, I would say equally strong situational forces include fit, need, and priority. Research fit is fluid, and even established POIs may change interests over time. Need fluctuates with a POI's workload, and priority fluctuates depending on the need of other faculty in the dept. For example, beginning assistant professors are given MUCH higher priority from a much smaller pool of interested applicants than more established professors.

Contacting POIs at the beginning of the application season can give you an estimate of these factors, but it's important to keep that in mind regardless. Things can change. Just because you may not have heard from a particular POI does not really reflect much on you. In addition, admissions do not necessarily work with clear goals in mind (1 student for Professor X, 2 for Y, etc.). For example, I know professor Z has not been able to accept any of his applicants. But if Professor X's one accept declines, than professor Z gets to accept his first choice (and Professor X does not get his second choice).

Thanks for this info! The more I learn about this process, the more I'm surprised that circumstance (fit, need, and priority, as you say) factors just as heavily in admissions decisions as raw credentials. In a way, this relieves some of the tendency to criticize ourselves since we can partly attribute rejections to forces outside our control. Thanks again!

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None is necessary.

No amount is sufficient.

If you don't mind me asking:

What sub-discipline are you shooting for?

Did you apply to work with specific people? If so,

Did you tailor your Statement of Purpose, etc. to those individuals in particular?

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I'm applying to clinical programs this fall. I will only have 1 year of research experience, although I've been involved with two major ongoing projects with two sets of faculty members to go along with my honors thesis that I'm starting this spring. I also have 3 poster presentations and 1 application for publication that is still impending. Is this enough research experience to get into a solid program? Extra info is that I am from a small unknown school, but I have extremely high GRE scores and GPA. Am I screwed?

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I'm applying to clinical programs this fall. I will only have 1 year of research experience, although I've been involved with two major ongoing projects with two sets of faculty members to go along with my honors thesis that I'm starting this spring. I also have 3 poster presentations and 1 application for publication that is still impending. Is this enough research experience to get into a solid program? Extra info is that I am from a small unknown school, but I have extremely high GRE scores and GPA. Am I screwed?

wow, you got 3 poster presentations and a submitted manuscript in 1 year??? either way thats very impressive and extremely high GRE is very big also

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Yeah, I hit the lottery into walking into some projects with some extremely motivated faculty members. So I don't know how the whole graduate admissions process works but I feel that although I have only been doing research a relatively short amount of time, it has been a pretty productive period.

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Yeah, I hit the lottery into walking into some projects with some extremely motivated faculty members. So I don't know how the whole graduate admissions process works but I feel that although I have only been doing research a relatively short amount of time, it has been a pretty productive period.

Cool! Sometimes we're just in the right place at the right time (which I'm discovering also happens to people during the application cycle). Are you interested in clinical science (an academic career), or do you see yourself primarily as a clinician? Many of the clinical science programs (e.g., Harvard) explicitly discourage clinically oriented folks from applying. In PsyD or other PhD programs that don't impose such heavy demands to conduct research, I've heard that people can get a lot more clinical training done in less time. Just asking, though not to patronize you--you've probably already asked yourself these questions.

I myself seriously considered clinical psych until I realized that I either needed to specialize or back out; an adjunct lecturer and practicing psychologist warned me that the field is already pretty saturated. The message I got is that there are just too many people out of grad school seeking to become clinical psychologists who treat a wide range of disorders in private practice. It's brutally difficult to find work. Part of me still aches to become a clinical psychologist, and if I were to heed that impulse I would pick a population or disorder or subfield (e.g., health or neuropsychology) that interested me and then run with it. This really speaks to the whole fit issue, too--if you want to specialize in culture-responsive therapy for ethnic minorities, then you apply to programs that have reputations in minority mental health.

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Cool! Sometimes we're just in the right place at the right time (which I'm discovering also happens to people during the application cycle). Are you interested in clinical science (an academic career), or do you see yourself primarily as a clinician? Many of the clinical science programs (e.g., Harvard) explicitly discourage clinically oriented folks from applying. In PsyD or other PhD programs that don't impose such heavy demands to conduct research, I've heard that people can get a lot more clinical training done in less time. Just asking, though not to patronize you--you've probably already asked yourself these questions.

I myself seriously considered clinical psych until I realized that I either needed to specialize or back out; an adjunct lecturer and practicing psychologist warned me that the field is already pretty saturated. The message I got is that there are just too many people out of grad school seeking to become clinical psychologists who treat a wide range of disorders in private practice. It's brutally difficult to find work. Part of me still aches to become a clinical psychologist, and if I were to heed that impulse I would pick a population or disorder or subfield (e.g., health or neuropsychology) that interested me and then run with it. This really speaks to the whole fit issue, too--if you want to specialize in culture-responsive therapy for ethnic minorities, then you apply to programs that have reputations in minority mental health.

I'm definitely interested in working in an academic or research oriented career. I have absolutely no interest in pursuing a career as a clinical provider. I don't want to get to in depth with my research or research interests, but if you would like to PM me then I would be happy to share.

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I'm definitely interested in working in an academic or research oriented career. I have absolutely no interest in pursuing a career as a clinical provider. I don't want to get to in depth with my research or research interests, but if you would like to PM me then I would be happy to share.

Awesome, sounds like you've got clearly defined goals. Not many people have that in clinical psych--I know I didn't! All the best to you in your research, which I am sure is fascinating, and I hope everything works out well!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I myself seriously considered clinical psych until I realized that I either needed to specialize or back out; an adjunct lecturer and practicing psychologist warned me that the field is already pretty saturated. The message I got is that there are just too many people out of grad school seeking to become clinical psychologists who treat a wide range of disorders in private practice. It's brutally difficult to find work. Part of me still aches to become a clinical psychologist, and if I were to heed that impulse I would pick a population or disorder or subfield (e.g., health or neuropsychology) that interested me and then run with it. This really speaks to the whole fit issue, too--if you want to specialize in culture-responsive therapy for ethnic minorities, then you apply to programs that have reputations in minority mental health.

I had no idea about this. I thought figuring out I wanted to be a clinician who treats the general public was in depth enough. What sort of specialization? I don't want to romanticize the field, but I kind of see myself treating just everyday people who due to anxiety and stress may or may not have more serious problems. Are there really that many people out there who want to do exactly that? How do I choose a specialization if I thought I already did (and that was it)?

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I had no idea about this. I thought figuring out I wanted to be a clinician who treats the general public was in depth enough. What sort of specialization? I don't want to romanticize the field, but I kind of see myself treating just everyday people who due to anxiety and stress may or may not have more serious problems. Are there really that many people out there who want to do exactly that? How do I choose a specialization if I thought I already did (and that was it)?

My apologies, this is not my area and could be egregiously mistaken. That said, I've looked on threads on studentdoctornetwork, and people there seem to corroborate the notion of a saturated field. There's nothing wrong with a desire to treat a wide variety of disordered individuals; my point was just that I was told to steer away from that path because of the difficulty finding such work.

There are lots of opportunities to specialize: geropsych, health psych, child psych, minority mental health, correctional/prison psych, etc. You can also focus on substance abuse, abused and neglected individuals, mood disorders, etc., or you can specialize in assessments and evaluations rather than treatment. By "specialty" I was referring to any specific area of clinical need characterized by either a unique population, disorder, or perspective/method. The employment prospects (not to mention pay) can improve with further specialization.

Have you explored counseling psych? Not to patronize you--it just seems that your interest in treating everyday people/stressors could also be served with a degree in counseling psych.

I am sorry if I have not been as helpful as you would like; I stress that my area is social psych. I wish you all the best.

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My apologies, this is not my area and could be egregiously mistaken. That said, I've looked on threads on studentdoctornetwork, and people there seem to corroborate the notion of a saturated field. There's nothing wrong with a desire to treat a wide variety of disordered individuals; my point was just that I was told to steer away from that path because of the difficulty finding such work.

There are lots of opportunities to specialize: geropsych, health psych, child psych, minority mental health, correctional/prison psych, etc. You can also focus on substance abuse, abused and neglected individuals, mood disorders, etc., or you can specialize in assessments and evaluations rather than treatment. By "specialty" I was referring to any specific area of clinical need characterized by either a unique population, disorder, or perspective/method. The employment prospects (not to mention pay) can improve with further specialization.

Have you explored counseling psych? Not to patronize you--it just seems that your interest in treating everyday people/stressors could also be served with a degree in counseling psych.

I am sorry if I have not been as helpful as you would like; I stress that my area is social psych. I wish you all the best.

I'm going to agree with you and add that, a clinical PhD program are not interested in people that just want to treat everyday people with disorders.

I suggest ab2844 to find something more specific that hes interested, it could be anxiety, or depression. I suggest you talk to some clinical professors or PhD students, from the sounds of it, you don't really know what your getting yourself into. Also, a lot of program will not even look at you if all you want to do is treat people. (I'm talking about PhD programs). You have to understand PhD is a Research driven degree that focuses on advancement of knowledge, not treating patients necessarily, at least not major research institutions. Smaller liberal arts schools will have more opportunities like treating patients but you need to do the research. Either way, they are looking for people with more of a focus than just treat every day people that may or may not have serious problems.

I don't mean to be harsh but graduate school is very competitive, you need to convey that you know what your getting yourself into and your a good fit.

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My apologies, this is not my area and could be egregiously mistaken. That said, I've looked on threads on studentdoctornetwork, and people there seem to corroborate the notion of a saturated field. There's nothing wrong with a desire to treat a wide variety of disordered individuals; my point was just that I was told to steer away from that path because of the difficulty finding such work.

There are lots of opportunities to specialize: geropsych, health psych, child psych, minority mental health, correctional/prison psych, etc. You can also focus on substance abuse, abused and neglected individuals, mood disorders, etc., or you can specialize in assessments and evaluations rather than treatment. By "specialty" I was referring to any specific area of clinical need characterized by either a unique population, disorder, or perspective/method. The employment prospects (not to mention pay) can improve with further specialization.

Have you explored counseling psych? Not to patronize you--it just seems that your interest in treating everyday people/stressors could also be served with a degree in counseling psych.

I am sorry if I have not been as helpful as you would like; I stress that my area is social psych. I wish you all the best.

I did consider counseling psych, but I picked clinical because I want to be able to treat serious illnesses also. I'm interested in anxiety disorders and personality/mood disorders as well as phobias. If you consider that a specialty, then I guess I have one.smile.gif

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I'm going to agree with you and add that, a clinical PhD program are not interested in people that just want to treat everyday people with disorders.

I suggest ab2844 to find something more specific that hes interested, it could be anxiety, or depression. I suggest you talk to some clinical professors or PhD students, from the sounds of it, you don't really know what your getting yourself into. Also, a lot of program will not even look at you if all you want to do is treat people. (I'm talking about PhD programs). You have to understand PhD is a Research driven degree that focuses on advancement of knowledge, not treating patients necessarily, at least not major research institutions. Smaller liberal arts schools will have more opportunities like treating patients but you need to do the research. Either way, they are looking for people with more of a focus than just treat every day people that may or may not have serious problems.

I don't mean to be harsh but graduate school is very competitive, you need to convey that you know what your getting yourself into and your a good fit.

That is a bit harsh considering I never said I'm interested in a PhD. I applied to 2 PhD programs out of 11 applications. What I do want is a PsyD and from my understanding the focus of that degree IS to treat people. I am interested in anxiety and depression amongst other things. Like I said in the post above, I didn't realize those were considered specialties. If that is the case then I would like to specialize in anxiety disorders because I believe that would allow me to treat both serious and less severe clients.

Most clinicians treat with a PhD degree these years. It'll be a while before PsyD's equal out. I have nothing against research, it just hasn't been a priority for me up to this point. I wouldn't mind getting more involved in it in graduate school, but you can't tell me that every person applying to a PhD program is interested in only doing research.

Regardless, I appreciate your feedback. For future reference it would be kind of you to refer to me as a she tongue.gif

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It sounds like you know what you're doing. I remember reading that there are two "models" for training clinical psychologists. PhD programs use a "scientist-practitioner model" with an emphasis on research, and PsyD programs use a "practitioner-scholar model" with an emphases on clinical practice. Both do both, but it's just a matter of emphasis. Clinical isn't my area either, but I read about it a few years ago when I first started thinking about careers.

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