Navigating Graduate School

Posted September 4, 2013

September 2013 Newsletter

Navigating Graduate SchoolWell we’ve all been accepted into a graduate program, now we have to figure out how we can complete the program. And how do we complete the program with the least expense in terms of time and money? I see graduate school as three interconnected blocks: coursework, comprehensive exams, and the dissertation.

Coursework.  Most coursework is a matter of reading, rereading, and comprehending densely written research articles.  First, read the abstract, the topic sentences of each section, and the entire discussion section.  Also, ask questions about the figures and tables, trying to figure out what is being presented.  I always enjoyed reading an article and thinking, “what in the world are they trying to convey here?” then seeing the elegance in the research design and analysis (for fun, look at any of the Robert Rescorla articles and you’ll see what I mean).  Importantly, keep track of the articles and what you got out of them—they can be helpful when putting together a comprehensive exam list!

Comprehensive exams.  If there is any time for anxiety, comprehensive exams is that time.  At Miami University in Ohio, I had over 130 articles and chapters that I was responsible for and 16 hours over 2 days to “tell them what I know.”  In addition to staying organized, use that organization to start your dissertation literature review, and focus on what type of study and the topic of the study that you’ll be doing in the upcoming months.

Dissertation.  The dissertation is a process all by itself.  But if you thought about your dissertation during the comprehensive exam part of your experience, you’ll be ahead of the game.  We have a Graduate Student Toolkit that can really help you jump start portions of your methodology chapter and assist with the quantitative results chapter.  For more personalized one–on-one help, you can call us at (877) 437-8622 and schedule a time to speak with me.

Putting it all together. Graduate school is not what it’s “supposed to be,” but rather “what it actually is.” A colleague named Lee came to my home one Sunday afternoon and I asked him if he was working.  He told me that he never worked Sundays.   I couldn’t believe that any student ever took off any day—including Sundays. But Lee did, and he graduated just fine, and seems to continue to be living a full life.  Work-life balance is your responsibility.  Keep family and fun in your weekly mix of life.

I hope this was helpful and look forward to seeing you at the next webinar where we will get further into these topics!


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