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What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School

What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School

Paul Gray and David E. Drew at Inside Higher Ed has a detailed article on tips for an academic career for Ph.D. students. The article has two parts – first, it describes tips on completing dissertation and finding a first job. Second, it talks about in detail on teaching and service, research, and grants. Here are some examples:


7. If you are a new Ph.D. or an active researcher on a campus visit, many, if not most of the senior people who interview you have less, not more research productivity in the last three years than you have. This is particularly true for older faculty members who were granted tenure in easier times. When you are interviewed by such people, be kind. Stress the importance of your research but don’t overwhelm them with the details. You don’t want them to perceive you as a threat to the comfortable position they now hold.

8. Find the best possible institution for your first job. You can only go down the pecking order, not up, if you don’t make it at your first place. If you are a success, you can go up one level at a time. Stanford doesn’t hire from WinsockiState.

9. Unless you are starving or homeless, don’t take a tenure-track faculty position without the Ph.D. in hand. We estimate the odds are 2 to 1 against your ever finishing your degree. Even if you do finish while on the job, your chances of being tenured have gone down because you have reduced the “seven-year“ clock. Furthermore, without a Ph.D. you will be offered a significantly lower salary and you may never make up the difference. If you must work, the only defense you have is to negotiate with the institution that the clock does not start until they legitimately call you “Doctor.”

10.Non-university research organizations offer the challenge of research without the need or the opportunity to teach. They include industry laboratories, major consulting firms, government laboratories, and nonprofit think tanks. Each has a distinctive culture. Many involve military work. In the not-for-profits and the consulting firms, you are only as good as the last contract you brought in. As a result, these organizations experience a high burnout rate among people 45 or older. If you want to go back to academia at some time in the future, you will have to create your own portable wealth by publishing. Many of these organizations encourage and require you to publish, at least to publish research monographs. Unfortunately, publishing is counter-culture in some of these organizations. In some industrial laboratories it is said that if you write F=ma or E=mc2, someone will stamp your report Company Confidential.

11. Avoid taking a job in a college that you attended, no matter how strong your loyalty as an alumnus. You will always be regarded as a graduate student by the older faculty and will be treated as such.

12. If your field is one in which there is an oversupply of people, one strategy is to seek a job as an assistant dean. This approach is quite tricky. Colleges are always looking for such necessary but non-glorious jobs as assistant dean for student affairs or assistant dean of administration or assistant dean for summer school. You, as an applicant, insist that you also have an appointment (even if not tenure track) in your field of specialty, say, history. You must also insist that you teach one course and that you have some time for research. Unless you do so, you will never have a crack at a tenure-track position. You must then be active in your department and be seen by the department as a member in good standing who gives them access to the Administration. Even then, you may never be fully accepted. However, you will gain experience that can be used later and you will have had the academic title (and the teaching and research experience) needed on your resume when you look for a job involving full-time teaching and research.

I recommend this article to anyone who is currently taking Ph.D. or interested to do one.

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What They Don’t Teach You in Graduate School
What They Don’t Teach You in Grad School — Part II

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

How To Study Effectively: 7 Simple Tips

The brain is a tangled web of information. We don’t remember single facts, but instead we interlink everything by association. Anytime we experience a new event, our brains tie the sights, smells, sounds and our own impressions together into a new relationship.

Our brain remembers things by repetition, association, visual imagery, and all five senses. By knowing a bit about how the brain works, we can become better learners, absorbing new information faster than ever.

Here are some study tips to help get you started:

1. Use Flashcards

Our brains create engrained memories through repetition. The more times we hear, see, or repeat something to ourselves, the more likely we are to remember it.

Flashcards can help you learn new subjects quickly and efficiently. Flashcards allow you to study anywhere at any time. Their portable nature lends them to quick study sessions on the bus, in traffic, at lunch, or in the doctor’s office. You can always whip out your flashcards for a quick 2 to 3 minute study session.

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To create effective flashcards, you need to put one point on each flashcard. Don’t load up the entire card with information. That’s just overload. Instead, you should dedicate one concept to each card.

One of the best ways to make flashcards is to put 1 question on the front and one answer on the back. This way, you can repeatedly quiz yourself into you have mastered any topic of your choice.

Commit to reading through your flash cards at least 3 times a day and you will be amazed at how quickly you pick up new information.

As Tony Robbins says,

“Repetition is the mother of skill”.

2. Create the Right Environment

Often times, where you study can be just as important as how you study. For an optimum learning environment, you’ll want to find a nice spot that is fairly peaceful. Some people can’t stand a deafening silence, but you certainly don’t want to study near constant distractions.

Find a spot that you can call your own, with plenty of room to spread out your stuff. Go there each time you study and you will find yourself adapting to a productive study schedule. When you study in the same place each time, you become more productive in that spot because you associate it with studying.

3. Use Acronyms to Remember Information

In your quest for knowledge, you may have once heard of an odd term called “mnemonics”. However, even if you haven’t heard of this word, you have certainly heard of its many applications. One of the most popular mnemonic examples is “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. This is an acronym used to help musicians and students to remember the notes on a treble clef stave.

An acronym is simply an abbreviation formed using the intial letters of a word. These types of memory aids can help you to learn large quantities of information in a short period of time.

4. Listen to Music

Research has long shown that certain types of music help you to recall information. Information learned while listening to a particular song can often be remembered simply by “playing” the songs mentally in your head.

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5. Rewrite Your Notes

This can be done by hand or on the computer. However, you should keep in mind that writing by hand can often stimulate more neural activity than when writing on the computer.

Everyone should study their notes at home but often times, simply re-reading them is too passive. Re-reading your notes can cause you to become disengaged and distracted.

To get the most out of your study time, make sure that it is active. Rewriting your notes turns a passive study time into an active and engaging learning tool. You can begin using this technique by buying two notebooks for each of your classes. Dedicate one of the notebooks for making notes during each class. Dedicate the other notebook to rewriting your notes outside of class.

6. Engage Your Emotions

Emotions play a very important part in your memory. Think about it. The last time you went to a party, which people did you remember? The lady who made you laugh, the man who hurt your feelings, and the kid who went screaming through the halls are the ones you will remember. They are the ones who had an emotional impact.

Fortunately, you can use the power of emotion in your own study sessions. Enhance your memory by using your five senses. Don’t just memorize facts. Don’t just see and hear the words in your mind. Create a vivid visual picture of what you are trying to learn.

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For example, if you are trying to learn the many parts of a human cell, begin physically rotating the cell in your minds eye. Imagine what each part might feel like. Begin to take the cell apart piece by piece and then reconstruct it. Paint the human cell with vivid colors. Enlarge the cell in your mind’s eye so that it is now six feet tall and putting on your own personal comedy show. This visual and emotional mind play will help deeply encode information into your memory.

7. Make Associations

One of the best ways to learn new things is to relate what you want to learn with something you already know. This is known as association, and it is the mental glue that drives your brain.

Have you ever listened to a song and been flooded by memories that were connected to it? Have you ever seen an old friend that triggered memories from childhood? This is the power of association.

To maximize our mental powers, we must constantly be looking for ways to relate new information with old ideas and concepts that we are already familiar with.

You can do this with the use of mindmapping. A mind map is used to diagram words, pictures, thoughts, and ideas into a an interconnected web of information. This simple practice will help you to connect everything you learn into a global network of knowledge that can be pulled from at any moment.

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Learn more about mindmapping here: How to Mind Map to Visualize Your Thoughts (With Mind Map Examples)

Featured photo credit: Alissa De Leva via unsplash.com

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