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What factors are most important to a PhD's research quality?


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- Does adviser really matter? I hear they are usually very hands off? How about if I can't find someone who is expert in my field?

- What if there is lack of courses that is related to student's research?
- Is it a student's initiative, ability to self teach/research that is most important?


Any other comments would be great. THanks.

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1) Yes, your advisor matters, not only in actual help with research, but just as someone to talk to about problems and about academia, and with networking. Whether they're "hands off" really depends on the particular student and advisor.


2) At least in my experience, it's not really common that there are actual courses specifically on one's own research, since research projects are generally very narrow and graduate courses aren't as extensive as undergraduate (again, in the places that I've been): fewer (or no) special topics courses, for instance. In my program, the courses are mainly meant to serve as the basis for comp exams, so they're essentially survey courses meant to 'certify' students to  teach a subfield.


3) Double yes - initiative and ability/motivation to research is really, in the end, ALL that's important. What'll get you through isn't intelligence but sheer hard work and determination, and your own desire or willingness to seek out the knowledge you need to progress.   

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