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Should I get another MA before applying to Phd


Washoe

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So, I had it all worked out, which schools I am applying to, who is going to write my LORs...and now, lookig at all these people applying i feel really bad about my chances. I have a good GPA (around 3.8/4 overall, 3.9/4 anthro) but my research experience is lacking. This is what I've got:

 

1) I volunteered in a bioarch lab for two years when I did my MA, but it was only every other day, so that amounts to maybe a year, and i don't have any papers or conferences out of it, but would get a good LOR from the person who runs the lab.

 

2) I participated in one field school (excavation), which should count for something for part of the programs I am applying to, but I'm not sure if it holds any significance for programs which focus on primate research in the wild (except that it shows I don't mind spending my days covered in grime in a muddy forest, heh)

 

3) Research I did for my theses, maybe? One is original research, but its in (psycho)linguistics, not anthro (I am a double major). I developed my own methodology and tests, studied something no one else has, but it is a really small scale research. 

 

The other thesis was an interdisciolinary approach to a problem I would like to study in the future and I think it is a good one, but it is  theoretical, so not really sure if that will help. Both theses have later been published, albeit with me as a second author (my supervisors are stated 1st authors). And thats about everything that I have published.

 

So the question is: Should I try for another MA or MSc, and get more research experience, maybe even some teaching experience before I apply for a Phd? I really do not feel like I lack knowledge and/or skills,  I think I used the (scarce) possibilities at my uni the best I could and gained a lot from it, but when put on paper, it just doesn't seem very impressive. Also, I have been absent for academia for half a year now, keeping in touch with my potential LOR writers, but working in a completely unrelated (non-scientific) field.

Edited by Washoe
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The nature of many masters degrees is to spend a lot of time doing classwork and research mostly thought out and organized by your PI.  I don't think a second will be any more compelling to an admissions committee as evidence of your ability to perform independent research. It sounds to me like you already can make the case that you can think up interesting questions and follow through on your own ideas, and you have papers and a good GPA. Half a year is a trivial absence from academia. What will a second Master's gain you if you already think you are ready for a PhD program?

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When you report your research experiences, you report actual time served.  Most people don't volunteer in the lab every day - even every other day is more than most people volunteer (I think I went in 2-3 days a week when I did my research).  So you have 2 years of research experience.  I think a conference presentation or 2 is expected, but not necessarily a paper.  However, not having one doesn't totally exclude you.

I don't know enough about archaeology to determine the importance of an excavation.

Your thesis research definitely counts.  Find a way to relate it to your current anthro interests, but even if not, it shows that you know how to carry out a project from beginning to completion independently.  Theoretical papers also help because they show that you can carefully treat a scholarly theoretical issue in a serious way.  (Why are you second author on your own theses?  There's something wrong with that, IMO.  But still, second author is good.)

Honestly, it doesn't sound like you need another MA.  You have 2-second author publications (most applicants are lucky to have one at third or worse), at least 2 years of research experience, and 2 independent projects that you can talk about, and you've done an excavation.  You can apply for some MA or MS programs for backup just in case, but I think your experience is fine!

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Thanks Usmivka and Julliet Mercredi!

 I think I will take your advice and apply to at least one MA and I will try to squeeze in at least a student conference presentation.

 (Why are you second author on your own theses?  There's something wrong with that, IMO.  But still, second author is good.)

 

 

As for this, I am the first author on the theses as such, but they have been (slightly) restructured and then published.

Publishing with your students is mandatory here for professors on tenure track. This practice was meant to encourage professors to do more research projects (which are pretty rare) with theiir students, but in practice, it just means that someone stamps their name on your work  for supervising it, which is ok unless you end up a second author due to "seniority". That kind of sucks if you are applying to another scientific system, which doesn't do things quite the same way.  I'm a bit worried  that being a second author on the work based on my own theses will look strange on my CV  :mellow:

Edited by Washoe
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Thanks Usmivka and Julliet Mercredi!

 I think I will take your advice and apply to at least one MA and I will try to squeeze in at least a student conference presentation.

 

You did mean PhD yes? We both said there was no need to apply for another MA, though jm suggested you could if you were feeling particularly antsy about having a backup.

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