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I am going to devote all my resources to getting A's in my coureses and doing well in my assistantship duties, sure I'll interact with the other students at times but I think everything else will be less priority. People say grades are not important but you need to have high grades to maintain your funding

 

Also I am glad I have no other responsibilities e.g. Pets, relationship, children, etc. if you have those they will just be a big distraction to your studies. I'm also giving up all the pleasures I used to do like video games during my doctoral studies, I'm just treating it like a professional job now which it is.

Why is this guy getting downvoted? I think this is quite admirable, to devote everything to your research.

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Why is this guy getting downvoted? I think this is quite admirable, to devote everything to your research.

 

Like many others said in their responses to criminologist, it's fine if they wants to devote all of their time to research--it's not for me and I think it might be a little naive but if that is really what makes them happy, then all the power to them! But the reason for the downvotes and responses is that criminologists' posts also imply that devoting everything to research is objectively the best thing to do and that students who do not are not "serious" or "committed" enough. And I think this is incorrect as well as a poor attitude to have towards one's fellow students.

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In addition to much of the good advise here, consider finding a local bar for those nights where all else has failed.

 

 

Or at least a lemon-aid stand

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I was wondering when is a good time for first year masters students to start getting involved in research? I have emailed professors to discuss my research interests, however I was told that the first year (usually all coursework) can be academically challenging and rigorous and that I should wait until later in my first year to formulate an adequate research question and plan. I have not been assigned my faculty advisor yet so I am not sure what to do from here. Any thoughts?

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I was wondering when is a good time for first year masters students to start getting involved in research? I have emailed professors to discuss my research interests, however I was told that the first year (usually all coursework) can be academically challenging and rigorous and that I should wait until later in my first year to formulate an adequate research question and plan. I have not been assigned my faculty advisor yet so I am not sure what to do from here. Any thoughts?

 

This probably depends on the program. I'd say follow the advice you've been given by your professors, at least until you've started the program and gotten a sense of how much research you can integrate with your coursework. It's not uncommon for programs to have students put emphasis on their coursework in their first year, with a research focus only starting in the second year (while in other programs you start research immediately, but that doesn't sound like how your program is set up).  My guess is that a reasonable time course would be: arrive, start first semester courses, start getting to know professors whose research you are interested in, attend reading groups or other research-related activities in your program, get settled in. After you've gotten a sense of how to deal with classes, probably after the fall semester (and possibly only towards the summer break), start developing a research project; shift focus to research and write a thesis, while completing your remaining coursework in second year.

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This probably depends on the program. I'd say follow the advice you've been given by your professors, at least until you've started the program and gotten a sense of how much research you can integrate with your coursework. It's not uncommon for programs to have students put emphasis on their coursework in their first year, with a research focus only starting in the second year (while in other programs you start research immediately, but that doesn't sound like how your program is set up). My guess is that a reasonable time course would be: arrive, start first semester courses, start getting to know professors whose research you are interested in, attend reading groups or other research-related activities in your program, get settled in. After you've gotten a sense of how to deal with classes, probably after the fall semester (and possibly only towards the summer break), start developing a research project; shift focus to research and write a thesis, while completing your remaining coursework in second year.

Thanks for answering my question. The professors in my program want their students to master the coursework during the first year and be devoted to research almost full time during the second year with the exception of taking courses that will aid in the progress of the research conducted. Although some students do begin their research in the first year, I guess I am overly anxious and want to make sure everything is lined up and ready to go. I guess I'll be patient!

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Related to having a faculty advisor: I was assigned my first year advisor several weeks ago. Strangely, I didn't meet with this person during visiting day so I'm rather surprised I was assigned to them. Everyone else seemed to be assigned to people they had meetings with. I can kind of see how our interests are related but by no means is it a perfect match. Meanwhile, there were other people I felt like I jived with really well that I did have meetings with who even pretty much offered to be my advisor. I emailed the person I was assigned to to say hello right after I found out and never received any response. I've seen this person send out mass emails to the department so I know they're not on sabbatical and have access to their email. It is just my first year advisor and after the first year I can choose my own advisor, but how should I approach this situation now that they haven't responded? Do I wait for them to approach me or email again once it's closer to the beginning of the school year? I'm a little concerned at the lack of correspondence because the last thing I want is to get behind because my advisor is MIA.

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Thanks for answering my question. The professors in my program want their students to master the coursework during the first year and be devoted to research almost full time during the second year with the exception of taking courses that will aid in the progress of the research conducted. Although some students do begin their research in the first year, I guess I am overly anxious and want to make sure everything is lined up and ready to go. I guess I'll be patient!

 

My MSc program was in Canada, where we do things a little bit differently. Students are often either paired up with an advisor upon acceptance (i.e. the offer basically says you can do a MSc here with Profs, X and Y and you pick one when you say yes) or find one within the first few months. Since all grad students in Canada start in a (funded) terminal MSc program, we are always encouraged to start research from day one. 

 

However, in reality, most grad students do not actually start doing real research until the summer. The first year is a lot of time spent learning how to TA, research and balance classes all at once. Students might start learning the very basic stuff of their research, but I would probably say that in my first 8 months of a research-based Masters, I still probably managed to only get 3-4 weeks of actual research work completed (if I had worked on it full time). 

 

So, even in a system where things are supposed to be lined up and ready to go, many people do not begin research in earnest until the summer. So, I don't think you have to worry about being "behind" if you are not able to start work right away. Of course, it is probably a good idea to start as soon as possible, but even if you get swamped by classes or need more time to adjust to grad student life, I'd say that if you get nothing done until the summer, at the worst case, you would just be a few weeks behind, not an entire year!

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Another new grad student with a research question!

 

I know that I won't have an abundance of time to start researching my first year. However, I'm planning to start some of the "foundational" research next week (very, very basic religious and historical background). Is it realistic to expect that I will be able to get an hour or two per week of research done without distracting myself from classes (or to keep me from being balanced with all of my other life stuff)?

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Its not really about time but about efficiency: when you first start a project, it is much easier to waste time. The maximum efficiency of the project should come right after the proposal: you have laid out what you need to do.... now do it! Before then the project is much more open.

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Another new grad student with a research question!

I know that I won't have an abundance of time to start researching my first year. However, I'm planning to start some of the "foundational" research next week (very, very basic religious and historical background). Is it realistic to expect that I will be able to get an hour or two per week of research done without distracting myself from classes (or to keep me from being balanced with all of my other life stuff)?

I'm a masters student but I have been taking 3 classes per semester (same classes that the phd students take) and attending the same seminars etc that phd students do. I've been doing around 20-30 hours of research a week. Classes are not nearly as important in grad school as undergrad and research takes priority. I would definitely make time for it!

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Leisure activities are crucial for the human mind...they actually increase one's work productivity. The optimal ratio of work to leisure varies a lot between individuals. I start to see diminishing returns in my work after a just a couple of hours, so I prefer to intersperse my work with leisure activities throughout the day.

 

Philosophically, I am something of a hedonist. Life is not worth living without pleasure. I do desire more than just pleasure - what is often called self-actualization - but that is only relevant if it is enjoyable. I'm not willing to suffer for many years just based on the premise that someday, hopefully I will be happy. That is a fruitless endeavor because when you finally achieve your goals, you'll wonder what happened to the time. You'll wish you had stopped to smell the roses. You'll wish you had actually lived in the present moment, rather than treating everything as a preamble to the future.

Edited by Arcadian

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Related to having a faculty advisor: I was assigned my first year advisor several weeks ago. Strangely, I didn't meet with this person during visiting day so I'm rather surprised I was assigned to them. Everyone else seemed to be assigned to people they had meetings with. I can kind of see how our interests are related but by no means is it a perfect match. Meanwhile, there were other people I felt like I jived with really well that I did have meetings with who even pretty much offered to be my advisor. I emailed the person I was assigned to to say hello right after I found out and never received any response. I've seen this person send out mass emails to the department so I know they're not on sabbatical and have access to their email. It is just my first year advisor and after the first year I can choose my own advisor, but how should I approach this situation now that they haven't responded? Do I wait for them to approach me or email again once it's closer to the beginning of the school year? I'm a little concerned at the lack of correspondence because the last thing I want is to get behind because my advisor is MIA.

 

Are you required to wait a full year before choosing your own advisor?  Does the department frown on your seeking informal advice from someone else?  Does the department have a graduate liaison?

First-year advisors are a mixed bag.  I came to my program wanting to work with someone specific.  I filled out the paperwork the day I met him and had my plan of study meeting by November (setting records).  By April I realized that my interests had shifted and while my advisor really was a great guy, he was not a good fit for me.  Because he was my official advisor I had to have a fairly uncomfortable meeting to tell him I needed to switch to someone whose research methodology and interests better fit with mine.  

Often the first year is fairly straightforward regarding the courses you enroll in.  A lot of departments have a foundational course that explains what the discipline is all about, and then there are methods classes to take.  If your department is similar, you will have very few "elective" type classes because you'll be taking core courses.  And the electives will help you to be sure about where you want to focus.

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Are you required to wait a full year before choosing your own advisor?  Does the department frown on your seeking informal advice from someone else?  Does the department have a graduate liaison?

First-year advisors are a mixed bag.  I came to my program wanting to work with someone specific.  I filled out the paperwork the day I met him and had my plan of study meeting by November (setting records).  By April I realized that my interests had shifted and while my advisor really was a great guy, he was not a good fit for me.  Because he was my official advisor I had to have a fairly uncomfortable meeting to tell him I needed to switch to someone whose research methodology and interests better fit with mine.  

Often the first year is fairly straightforward regarding the courses you enroll in.  A lot of departments have a foundational course that explains what the discipline is all about, and then there are methods classes to take.  If your department is similar, you will have very few "elective" type classes because you'll be taking core courses.  And the electives will help you to be sure about where you want to focus.

Yes, I'm supposed to choose my faculty advisor at the end of the first year. I can certainly seek informal advice from anyone I choose and we don't have a liaison but we do have a department secretary.

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How do y'all keep hard copies of work organized? I have a few three-ring binders (nice, big notebooks; one for my foreign language, one for grad classes, one for my research) that I was going to use, but aside from dividing by course, I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't anticipate that I'll need to haul them around on a daily basis, but I do want to be able to easily access (and file) things.

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How do y'all keep hard copies of work organized? I have a few three-ring binders (nice, big notebooks; one for my foreign language, one for grad classes, one for my research) that I was going to use, but aside from dividing by course, I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't anticipate that I'll need to haul them around on a daily basis, but I do want to be able to easily access (and file) things.

 

I have a filing cabinet next to my desk in my office and I make a folder for each course and file all my work for that course into that folder. At the end of the term, I always go back and organize it in a logical way, usually putting the syllabus and exams (and materials I create for exam review) at the front then copies of all my homework and notes to follow. I organize the folder with the intention of being able to access material quickly if I need to review something, or if I need to help someone else with the course in the future, or if I need to TA that course in the future.

 

For research related material, I generally do not have hard copies of things--I prefer electronic copies. However, sometimes I do end up with hard copies so I have some folders for this too.

 

I don't like giant binders because I find it really difficult to transport and flip through them. I prefer file folders (in hanging file folders) because the file cabinet is tall so that most of the drawers are at a height that is very easy for me to use when standing up next to it. I can just flip through the files fast and find what I want. Also, if I need to take a folder home with me, they are already divided into small units and it's a lot easier to just get the files I want. 

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Make friends in graduate school is also important. In short, they can help you in study and also in your experiments. In long, you are building your professional network (They are also professors in the future!)

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Hi 

 

Im starting my program in just a couple of weeks and I have read some great comments here already. 

But I was wondering if there is any specific advise for someone in the Humanities. I saw some mentioning it a little already. 
I see a lot of info about labs and stuff but I won't have that, so I was just hoping someone specifically in the Humanities could give some advice. 

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Hi 

 

Im starting my program in just a couple of weeks and I have read some great comments here already. 

But I was wondering if there is any specific advise for someone in the Humanities. I saw some mentioning it a little already. 
I see a lot of info about labs and stuff but I won't have that, so I was just hoping someone specifically in the Humanities could give some advice. 

 

I'm in Communication which straddles social science and the humanities (depending on which school you attend you can find programs listed under either).  

 

What advice are you looking for?  I recommended getting connected with other students as quickly as you can.  Build networks.  Find out who has similar interests to yours and go out for coffee to talk about them.  Spend time talking to students that are ahead of you and learn from their experiences.  Take time for you.  Eat right, sleep right, exercise.  Work life balance is essential, because once you graduate you are likely to be even busier than you are as a student.

 

Most of all, have fun and savor this time.  It goes a lot faster than I would have imagined prior to starting my program.

Edited by lyrehc

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This is an excellent thread.  I enjoyed the discussion between criminologist and everyone else.  Mostly because the type A part of me is just as insistent that I will have to give up everything I love and hold dear in order to finish the Ph.D program.  The numerous people providing example after example of those who had succeeded while having a life and explaining why outside interests are important has really helped me realize that it is possible and necessary to have a work life balance in the Ph.D program.  Which is a relief.  I had no life for 9 months while I was getting my CPA and don't really want to repeat the process.

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Criminologist, the top 3 students in my program (judged by grades, research, and fellowships) have the following going on:

1) 1 is engaged with multiple pets and lives an hour from campus

2) another is engaged, no pets

3) the third is married, 2 kids, and lives 30 mins from campus

In my program there is ZERO correlation between giving up distractions like relationships and success. Actually, the opposite seems true. Nearly all of the average students in my program are single, no pets, and live on or near campus. Your "theory" doesn't hold with my observations at all.

 

This is such a relief to hear.... I will be a combination of all of the above: living one hour from campus, with two kids, multiple pets, right after getting hitched with my SO...!

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How much should one's interests be narrowed down by the time one enters a combined MA/PhD program? I am interested in a wide array of things related to my field, and while I had to select a geographic focus in order to apply, that's about the only thing I know for certain. 

 

I love the program I applied to because I could take my studies into ancient history, or into psychology and cognitive science, or into anthropology, or into the global-political arena. But these directions are pretty divergent.

 

Should I be working over the summer to try and narrow them down? I have almost no background in religious studies, and the program admitted me with that (I said it in my SOP, plainly), so they know I have some foundations to build - is that a lame excuse to be a little unfocused in terms of topic? 

 

 

 

Also...

Leisure activities are crucial for the human mind...they actually increase one's work productivity. The optimal ratio of work to leisure varies a lot between individuals. I start to see diminishing returns in my work after a just a couple of hours, so I prefer to intersperse my work with leisure activities throughout the day.

 

Philosophically, I am something of a hedonist. Life is not worth living without pleasure. I do desire more than just pleasure - what is often called self-actualization - but that is only relevant if it is enjoyable. I'm not willing to suffer for many years just based on the premise that someday, hopefully I will be happy. That is a fruitless endeavor because when you finally achieve your goals, you'll wonder what happened to the time. You'll wish you had stopped to smell the roses. You'll wish you had actually lived in the present moment, rather than treating everything as a preamble to the future.

 

...Can I turn this into my (attributed!) signature?

Edited by jujubea

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How much should one's interests be narrowed down by the time one enters a combined MA/PhD program? I am interested in a wide array of things related to my field, and while I had to select a geographic focus in order to apply, that's about the only thing I know for certain. 

 

I love the program I applied to because I could take my studies into ancient history, or into psychology and cognitive science, or into anthropology, or into the global-political arena. But these directions are pretty divergent.

 

Should I be working over the summer to try and narrow them down? I have almost no background in religious studies, and the program admitted me with that (I said it in my SOP, plainly), so they know I have some foundations to build - is that a lame excuse to be a little unfocused in terms of topic? 

I recommend that you get some sense of the direction your intended profession is headed IRT the balance between general knowledge and specialization. Are the rock stars focused on the forest, a tree, or a leaf on a branch?

Then figure out if you want to fit into that pattern or be part of a change of direction.

In any case, you may have some catching up to do this summer in building your foundational knowledge.

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I recommend that you get some sense of the direction your intended profession is headed IRT the balance between general knowledge and specialization. Are the rock stars focused on the forest, a tree, or a leaf on a branch?

Then figure out if you want to fit into that pattern or be part of a change of direction.

In any case, you may have some catching up to do this summer in building your foundational knowledge.

 

From what I know, it looks like there's a lot of "forest" work going on by the apparent rock stars. Which is great because I love that type of stuff: the meta-level views, the study of the study of religion itself, the bridging between disciplines, etc. 

 

But this is only from what little I do know...So I'll take your last bullet of advice perhaps first :)

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