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Finding a Research Mentor? 162

Posted by kdawson
from the there's-your-thesis-right-there dept.
bsomerville writes "As an aspiring social scientist preparing to apply to Ph.D. programs, I'm keen to find a faculty mentor somewhere in North America who shares my research interests. This is more difficult than I thought it would be. While links to program websites are readily available, I'm surprised to find no comprehensive collection of faculty research interests in my field (clinical psychology). Instead this information is buried several levels down in each university website. Is this a common problem across all fields? Is there some inherent reason why no wiki-type Web resource exists to meet this need? It seems like a text-searchable database could be built fairly quickly and maintained by users, saving countless aspiring grad students thousands of clicks through university websites."
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Finding a Research Mentor?

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  • by inflamed (1156277) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:48AM (#32807374) Homepage
    Use ISI Web of Knowledge. Search for the terms you are interested in. Find papers. Sort by date. Who's publishing in your field these days? This is who you want to talk to.
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Does it take a finished PhD to find out that this might be a good approach?

      • by Surt (22457)

        It does take a little training. The poster may not have had good exposure to the tools of research yet. There are many worthy students who receive poor training at their first college/university. About 9 out of 10 colleges and universities just absolutely suck.

        • by pacergh (882705)

          This over-simplifies the problem. A more accurate statement might be "9 out of 10 University educational experiences suck."

          I've seen people who attended the same University, at the same time, and in the same programs that nevertheless learned (or didn't) research skills at drastically different levels. Some professors and courses do great jobs at teaching these skills, some do not.

          Add in the variable of whether a student actually takes the time to learn those skills and it creates a wide variety of outcom

    • by wmac (1107843)
      I second that. It is a great tool.

      If you know how to use it, It can prepare you a list of the most useful papers for a litrature review too.
    • by Obfiscator (150451) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:27AM (#32807578) Homepage

      I would add something to this. It's typically better to work with someone who is well-known in the field (i.e. someone who is probably doing higher quality research). That's almost impossible to tell if you are new to the field, but ISI Web of Knowledge also lists the number of times an article has been cited. It's not a perfect measure of the usefulness of the article to the field, but it's a good zeroth-order approximation. Start with the papers which have the most citations (keeping in mind that they will be a bit older) and work your way down.

      In this same line, you should figure out if you want to work for an old, established professor, or a young, up-and-coming assistant professor. The methods/environments in the two situations can be quite different, and it's good to have an idea of what you're looking for.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Go to your favorite search engine and look for "conference or journal ranking clinical psychology".

      Pick the first three or four of them and look at the papers that have been published and by whom. A good professor might have several papers there.

      Find where he is and contact him/her. You might want to be bold enough to call the professor on the phone, since they receive tons of applications via email. Some of my friends did it and it worked for them.

      You have to start applying very early as the application pr

      • by wmac (1107843)
        And then you mostly get a lot of junk papers along with the others. Later if someone looks into your reference list he will either cry or laugh!

        ISI paper is not good because of that beautiful label. It is because it helps you identify good research papers and journals.

        I would not however ignore conferences specially the good ones. It will help a researcher to find new ideas being worked on. I just say starting a research from mostly junk, unfinished and not very well evaluated works might not be as us
    • by golodh (893453) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:33AM (#32807604)
      Yes, this is definitely the way to go in the absence of being able to get help from any competent faculty member in the general field you are interested in (this doesn't have to be an exact match) where you got your MSc. Is there a specific reason you didn't speak to one of those? Faculty members are supposed to know something about the area they're working in (and they usually do). If nothing else, they will know where to look, how to look, and what to look for. But you can't go wrong doing a literature analysis. You may also ask your librarian for help in this respect, especially bout where to find and how to use citation indexes for journals and individuals. They're not everything, but they're a factor.

      Oh, and don't mind all those comments chiding you for not knowing anything about the area you're planning to specialize in. It's not exactly a point in your favor, but I've seen many aspiring Ph.D. students don't know who is who in the research area that's caught their interest, and they usually don't know much about the state of play in that area either (which is what they will find out in the first 6 months of their Ph.D. training). It will definitely add to their workload but that's why doing a Ph.D means specializing in a specific area.

    • by uid7306m (830787)

      Yea, but be aware that by the time things are published, they can be fairly old. Depending on the field, it can take a year or two to get published. Add up the other times, and you find out what was interesting about 4 years ago...

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by wmac (1107843)
        In ISI web of knowledge it is possible to categorize papers by publishing year. You can then select the last 4-5 years and then download a list of all those papers (if you have endnote or endnote web you can even download most of the papers).

        You can for example search on specific terms, and then limit to a time period, number of citations and other criteria and hopefully get a very good starting point for reading and literature review.
    • This is who you want to talk to.

      And this is the most important part. Of course you want to work with someone who is doing good work, but you also want to work somewhere you like. IMHO the best way to do this is to talk with your potential advisor before you fill out any paperwork.

      Be sure to take his current students out for a drink to get a feel for how they like working for him or her too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by xtracto (837672)

      I would mod you up (have mod points) but I see you are already at 5. Unfortunately it seems ISI WoK is not free to access (and papers are mainly non-free.

      Instead I would suggest to also look for the Public Library of Science [plos.org](PLoS one) or Scirus [scirus.com].

      If possible, Scopus [scopus.com] is a really really *great* resource to find papers. Unfortunately it is also non-free.

    • by Odinlake (1057938)

      Use ISI Web of Knowledge. Search for the terms you are interested in. Find papers. Sort by date. Who's publishing in your field these days? This is who you want to talk to.

      That's all well and good, but there are some other things to consider also. One: funding. Two: funding. Three: Make sure that whoever you choose is interested in YOU. I know several unfortunate PhD candidates who have tried for far too long but fail to graduate and one common denominator is lack of interest from supervisor. Four: Also keep in mind that there are lots of jerks out there - someone might seem good at first but then lose interest in what you do. If this happens and you can't change the situatio

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:53AM (#32807396)

    My research interests aren't immutable, and I don't entirely know what they are. If I run across a good idea, it can become a research interest. So, (a) who has the time to write such a web page, and (b) it would be wrong anyway.

    Also, research interests are (at least partially) an administrative fake. Administrators and research councils like departments to have "research programs" (God only knows why...). Department heads respond to this and ask professors for their "research interests". Professors look at their recent publications and write a one-paragraph plausible story about what their research interests must have been. But it's all after-the-fact and (as the financial people say) past performance has no relationship to future research.

    I speak as someone who makes their living doing research.

  • Great idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:53AM (#32807402) Homepage
    Great idea. Why don't you start it?
  • by scapermoya (769847) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:54AM (#32807416) Homepage
    If you are trying to find a mentor in any scientific field, you don't go looking for "lists" of interests. I don't even know what that refers to. You find recently published primary literature in areas you have interest in, and speak to those authors. This helps you find people who are actively working in the field you seek to be a part of. Even if the authors themselves aren't right for you, they are more likely to know other people in the field than anyone else.

    Frankly, I'm kind of shocked. You are applying to PhD programs, but don't currently know any scientists in the field? What about at your undergraduate institution? How did you get interested in social science without reading any papers?
    • by minsk (805035) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:08AM (#32807478)

      The other *big* reason to start your inquiry with published papers: Unless your initial e-mail shows that you have read and understood some of the professor's papers, your request is likely going to be ignored. The professors I know get requests every day from random students seeking a graduate supervisor. Many of them are form e-mails. Many more simply show no idea what the professor does. They all get deleted.

      Express interest in a part of their work which is interesting to you, and come up with a few questions about their future work.

      • excellent point. these days, a given professor's field is usually pretty small. they only want to talk shop with people who both understand their niche and show actual intellectual curiosity in it.
      • by Krahar (1655029)
        These form superviser requests are bad enough that I get them too every once in a while, and I'm just a student myself with no access to the supervising that the emails ask for. They also incorrectly refer to me as "professor", and the requests are in fields I know nothing of.
      • Frequently, these sorts of e-mails are from foreign students who can't afford to come to the professor's country to study, so they're fishing everywhere they can in order to get financial support.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by xtracto (837672)

        It depends...

        IF you have got your own funding, researchers are most likely to "pay attention" to you. So it is a good idea to start your first email communication with "Using my own funding resources, I want do my PhD in a field related to your current work."

        That is specially true in UK (well, at least it is where I experienced it on first-hand.

        It is better if you actually mention one or two of the papers *they* worked on (note: the ones where they where first or second authors; if they are last authors, ch

        • by Anonymous Coward

          IF you have got your own funding, researchers are most likely to "pay attention" to you. So it is a good idea to start your first email communication with "Using my own funding resources, I want do my PhD in a field related to your current work."

          This would work. It's also the most horrible idea ever. Why the hell would you do that? I got paid to get my Ph.D., not the other way around.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by xtracto (837672)

            Note that I did not say *you* will pay for your degree. You may as well get funding from a third party.

            For the majority of the cases where the research institution/University funds their studies, it is expected that the PhD student solves a "problem" defined by the department/supervisor/etc, that is, the PhD student is *working* for them.

            Whereas, if you get your own funding, you have the necessary leverage to decide whether the offered topics are interesting for you.

            In my country the science agency provides

    • by uid7306m (830787)

      Oh, bull****. Shouldn't be shocked. Some people are interested in the ideas more than the people. For instance, I was clueless when I went to grad school and now (30 years later) I've done fairly well.

      Knowing who is who certainly helps, but everyone starts out ignorant of something.

      • I'm not shocked he doesn't have an advisor. I'm shocked that he thought going to university websites would be the way to go.
        • by Sannish (803665)
          Two years ago I started applying for PhD programs in physics and had no idea where to start. I never had any research experience, I did not have an advisor and I knew barely anything about graduate school. So I trawled through university websites looking at departments and summaries of professors research interest. I never thought of looking at published papers since I never read them as an undergraduate (I was applying after my 3rd year which I spent abroad). And now I am finishing a fairly successful fi
          • I have to ask... what made you want to pursue a PhD if you weren't acquainted with papers and research? General interest?
    • by kklein (900361)

      I haven't seen mod points in over a year, otherwise you'd have some right now.

      WTF? Is he applying to PhD programs just out of undergrad? I kinda just picked a place for my master's, but I wish I'd known more about who was doing what; I would have gone somewhere else.

      Picking PhD programs to apply to (coming up) isn't hard. It's more a case of narrowing them down, since they're a lot of work. By the time you're looking at PhDs, you should probably know some of the people you're trying to study under. At t

    • Amen! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Weezul (52464)

      This.

      Another key concerns is that the advisorial relationship must necessarily be rather personal. You shouldn't assume you'll end up doing your PhD with the luminary in whatever specialization you initially approached. There are therefore several important criteria that matter when choosing a graduate program, which I'll list in rough order of importance :

      (1) institution reputation, (2) faculty size, (3) faculty student ratio, (4) teaching workload, (5) faculty areas of interests, and (6) how much pay yo

    • Exactly, start looking at the major databases that do exist.

      Journal articles are easily searchable, even by Google Scholar if you want a decent, use anywhere search engine. Get the authors/institutions from the papers, not by randomly searching school webpages.

      After you locate an interesting person, determine how that department does it's admissions. Some admit students then let them find advisors. Some pair up advisors and students at admission time. It depends on the school and on department.

      Be sure t

    • by klimax (973035)

      If you are trying to find a mentor in any scientific field, you don't go looking for "lists" of interests... Frankly, I'm kind of shocked...

      My thoughts exactly. This person already has a Master's in clinical psychology but don't know who is in their specialty? Don't know how to find out? Come to Slashdot??? And think that somebody should build a Wiki for them?

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:56AM (#32807422)
    If you can't get over this hurdle, then your chances of doing original and rigorous work in your chosen field don't look that good.

    Sometimes it's necessary to stop looking for answers on the internet and start doing plain, old-fashioned manual research. Have you asked the lecturers / staff at your existing college - they must have some contacts, to have taught you in the first place. How about looking up the authors of papers that interest you and actually talking to them.

    get out there and network.

    • thank god my research field is computing science itself. I can't remember when I had to do "plain, old-fashioned manual research" last time. And I am thankful for that!

    • If you can't get over this hurdle, then your chances of doing original and rigorous work in your chosen field don't look that good.

      Oh come on, he's an aspiring social "scientist", his chances of doing rigorous work don't look all that good to begin with.

  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:57AM (#32807428) Homepage Journal

    Yes.

    Some departments do a very good job of organizing their faculty lists by research interest. Some don't. Unfortunately, it's almost completely up to whoever the department hires to do their web site design (or they use a school-wide template, but in that case, it's up to whoever designs the template.) AFAIK, there's no real standard in any field -- not even in CS, which seems like it would be the most likely place for such a standard to emerge.

    • by Protonk (599901) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:11AM (#32807498) Homepage
      I'll second this. In economics, where there is a (nominally) unified classification code [aeaweb.org] for both jobs and research, most filled positions don't match the stated classification code. A professor may be hired to do time-series work but end up teaching only one time series course and supervising quantile regression work. Plenty of long-term faculty are hired under classification codes which described their early-career research interests but no more describe their current work than would your 4th grade movie tastes describe your current library. And the faculty don't bother changing that crap on the website because nobody really cares. No one who matters is going to search for faculty by the classification on the website. Press will go through a press office, colleagues will know the research and students will twist in the wind. :)
  • by Protonk (599901) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @02:57AM (#32807430) Homepage
    One way to determine what professors might share interests of yours would be to review books and articles you have read on the subject and pay close attention to the cited works. Who writes recent and interesting articles on a topic which excites you? Who has unpublished works in progress which are cited in current literature? If you have a clear conception of your research interests this should not be hard at all. Google scholar can help you here, as you can search by citation and by author (though the author search fails gracelessly when faced w/ abbreviations and authors with the same name). Alternately you can search Web of Science if you have an institutional account or look around for a recent lit review article. When you find a potential match, look for a few things. First make sure they are actually teaching at that school and not on some long term sabbatical or recently moved to some fancier university. Second check their current PhD students to see if they are already supervising a bunch. They don't need to be on your committee in order to mentor you, but it helps. Third (and this relates to the "don't bother"), make sure they are at a good school. Pedigree matters a LOT in academia, don't believe anyone who tells you different. A good dissertation is critical, but an average dissertation from a Harvard PhD gets you a lot further than an above average dissertation from State U. (assuming State U. isn't a public ivy)--that doesn't even begin to touch the non-signaling benefits of going to a good school. Of course "good school" is field dependent. But in most cases the top 10 and even the top 20 are usually the same.

    This is all assuming you want to get that PhD in order to teach someplace or do fieldwork. If you just want to learn, disregard all that stuff above about good schools. A lot of those top schools are pretty miserable for grad students if your goal is to learn.

    However, if you want to get placed somewhere good, then you can avoid this tedious search and simply apply to the best schools out there and hope you get in a top 10-20 institution. It's really mercenary, but that's how it works.
  • Papers... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geogob (569250) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:00AM (#32807444)

    If you are aspiring for a PhD, you should already have a good grasp at researching papers and conference proceedings. Actually, should probably have already done that part... From these papers and conference proceedings, you can quickly identify those working in your field of interest and get a (partial) big picture of who's doing what where. Limiting you search to the last 36 months might be helpful.

    This is obviously not a flawless method. It is time consuming and will only give you a partial picture (you'll probably not read every publication made in the last 3 years in all journals). You might also miss very interesting groups that publish in less known papers. That said, you have to choose wisely where you will focus your energy. Not working in your field, I can't help there, but as an aspiring PhD, you surly can find this information around you.

    Peer contacts are also very helpful. PhD, post-docs and professors where you currently are are likely to have a good intuition on where to find this information, which papers to parse and, maybe, who to contact directly.

    Forget about faculty websites. Forget about research grants (they are highly misleading).

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by coaxial (28297)

      If you are aspiring for a PhD, you should already have a good grasp at researching papers and conference proceedings. Actually, should probably have already done that part... From these papers and conference proceedings, you can quickly identify those working in your field of interest and get a (partial) big picture of who's doing what where. Limiting you search to the last 36 months might be helpful.

      True story:

      *ring* *ring*
      PhD Applicant: Hello?
      Dr. Z: Hey Applicant, I'm Dr. Z at one of the schools you applied to. Can we talk?
      A: Sure.
      Z: Ever thought about information retrieval?
      A: Not really.
      Z: What do you think when I say "information retrieval?"
      A: "Search engines."
      Z: Is that something you're interested in?
      A: (I better say yes, if I want accepted into the university.) It could be interesting.
      Z: Great!

      Fast forward one year.

      Z: Hey Former Applicant, there might be some money for you if you work shopping

      • by uid7306m (830787)

        That's the American system. In British (and maybe Eurpoean?) universities, they expect you to have something closer to a project in mind when you apply.

        • by coaxial (28297)

          Of course no one applies saying, "I want a phd. I'll do anything." You say what you're interested in, but the fact is you rarely pick your advisor or your topic. It depends on who can take another student on, and who has money for what. Sure you can try and get an advisor to like you, and you can try an massage a topic into something you're more interested in, but it's still a lot like an arranged marriage. Which is to say, your phd career might not be exactly what you were expecting, but that doesn't

  • "saving countless aspiring grad students thousands of clicks through university websites."

    Yeah, that's what professors live for, making their drudges (aka doc/post doc students) lives easier.

  • Until you posted it here that is and basement-dwellers everywhere scurried off to launch their own versions. Now a new problem... searching all the competing mentor finders. Now if only someone built a meta-search to search them all...

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Until you posted it here that is and basement-dwellers everywhere scurried off to launch their own versions. Now a new problem... searching all the competing mentor finders. Now if only someone built a meta-search to search them all...

      One web-ring to search them all, and in the darkness bind them.

  • The whole world isn't neatly chunked into convenient web pages ready for Google or a wiki to make available. Sometimes you actually have to work, read, and research rather than relying on someone else to do the work for you and make it available.

    This goes triply for someone who is ready to start PhD work and making 'original contributions to knowledge'.

    If you aren't already familiar with the papers, journals, conferences, etc.. in your purported field of interest and who is regularly publishing, presenting, and being cited - you aren't ready to do PhD level work.

    • by Protonk (599901)
      Meh. That really depends on the person, the field and the program. I know there are plenty of fields which expect first year PhDs to have a research plan plotted out for the next 5 ish years, but there are more which want them to get through methods courses and comprehensive exams first. The structure of graduate work (in the states at least) is designed to force students to be researchers, not to exclude students who are not already researchers.
  • by syousef (465911) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:18AM (#32807544) Journal

    At Ph.D. prep level you should be reading research papers/journal articles to work out who's doing interesting work. You should also have networked in your undergrad and formed connections to people who can provide you with interesting opportunities in exchange for your hard work.

    You certainly should not be dreaming of searchable dataases, trawling university web sites or posting to ask slashdot. That you are doing this does not bode well for your ability to complete a Ph.D.

    By the way, I have no idea about psychology but preprint articles in Physics and Astronomy can be found on the net at arxiv.org. Since the journals tend to try to restrict publication for their own profits these days (espeically in medical sciences), you may need to find a library or University that you can access that has research papers for your own field. Either way if you're not interested enough to read current research articles to determine who's doing interesting work, perhaps you should be thinking about something other than a doctorate.

    • by Krahar (1655029)

      You certainly should not be dreaming of searchable dataases, trawling university web sites or posting to ask slashdot. That you are doing this does not bode well for your ability to complete a Ph.D.

      It bodes perfectly well. Undertaking PhD studies is about learning how to do research, it's not about already knowing how to do everything the right way and then just doing that for three years. If you look at the responses that are coming in this thread, asking Slashdot was the best possible thing he could do and it'll have helped every other person looking to get into a PhD program who comes here from Google in future as well.

      • by Trepidity (597)

        Yeah, I'd say that at least in the American system (the European system is somewhat different), a typical PhD takes 5-6 years, and is segmented something like: 2-3 years of figuring out wtf is going on, and 3-4 years of doing a thesis.

      • by syousef (465911)

        It bodes perfectly well. Undertaking PhD studies is about learning how to do research, it's not about already knowing how to do everything the right way and then just doing that for three years. If you look at the responses that are coming in this thread, asking Slashdot was the best possible thing he could do and it'll have helped every other person looking to get into a PhD program who comes here from Google in future as well.

        I have no idea what your education background is like but if you really think asking here is a good idea, I don't know what to say. I did a masters and while it was about learning how to do research you were expected to get off your backside and make contacts and read papers. And you weren't expected to take 3 years learning to do it.

        • by Krahar (1655029)

          I have no idea what your education background is like but if you really think asking here is a good idea, I don't know what to say.

          My background is that I have a PhD. Are you saying that if you read the comments in this discussion and take it all with a grain of salt, then that won't be helpful information if you are looking to get a PhD?

          • by syousef (465911)

            My background is that I have a PhD. Are you saying that if you read the comments in this discussion and take it all with a grain of salt, then that won't be helpful information if you are looking to get a PhD?

            I'm saying someone not interested enough to read research papers and who after at least a 3 year undergrad still has no idea how to find something interesting to work on has little hope of completing a PhD. But what do I know? I only have a Masters, so you outrank me.

      • by Krahar (1655029)

        Undertaking PhD studies is about learning how to do research, it's not about already knowing how to do everything the right way and then just doing that for three years.

        This is to be read as "it's not about already knowing what to do and then doing that for three years." It's not intended to be a statement about how you should be not knowing what to do for 3 years - even if it can take quite a while to figure it all out.

    • by langelgjm (860756)

      At Ph.D. prep level you should be reading research papers/journal articles to work out who's doing interesting work. You should also have networked in your undergrad and formed connections to people who can provide you with interesting opportunities in exchange for your hard work.

      I'll second this. When I was figuring out where to apply for my Ph.D., I knew what I was interested in, and for a while I did browse the faculty lists of top schools just to see if there was anyone there interested in similar things. My interest is kind of an oddity in the field, and I didn't have much success finding anyone.

      They way I ended up finding my school (i.e., faculty member) was when doing research for a paper. Course instructor recommended that I read so-and-so, because she is a professor in my f

    • You certainly should not be dreaming of searchable dataases, trawling university web sites or posting to ask slashdot. That you are doing this does not bode well for your ability to complete a Ph.D.

      I think that's overly pessimistic. I think lots of generally capable students just don't get proper direction regarding how to navigate this phase of their academic careers. At the very worst, the OP maybe should pursue a master's degree as a way of getting more familiar with current research projects and their

  • by DrVomact (726065) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @03:41AM (#32807632) Journal

    While it's entirely possible that your knowledge of the field in which you hope to obtain a doctorate is mature enough that you should be asking this kind of question, the fact that you have to ask it at all makes me think that this isn't so. Doctoral research and theses usually explore an extremely narrow topic within a much broader discipline. If your interests are so developed that you already know the subject of your doctoral thesis, then how could you have acquired the necessary knowledge of the field without working with relevant scholars—or at least reading their work? Had you done that, you would know exactly who your mentor should be. But then that would mean that you had already done what you are supposed to spend your first couple of years of graduate study doing: learning about the field that you have chosen to specialize in, and identifying a particular interest that you wish to pursue in a thesis.

    In my experience, at least, graduate students usually spend the time allotted to the coursework portion of their Ph.D. curriculum gaining facility with the intellectual tools required by their chosen field, learning about this field in general, and most importantly, building relationships with teachers who might further their academic progress. Unless you are a very extraordinary and brilliant student, the normal procedure is not to find a mentor, and then enroll at the university where he is employed. Instead, you identify several universities where you think the interests of the faculty are reasonably compatible with your interests, and apply for admission. Once you are admitted, you work hard, and try to find a teacher with which you "click". Then you talk that teacher into sponsoring you as your dissertation adviser. If that happens, then all you have to do (in addition to the actual doctoral work) is put together a committee of faculty that get along with each other well enough that they can approve your dissertation without tearing each other's throats out in the process. (You have not seen vicious "office politics" until you have had to do with the academic version.)

    Yes, of course you can better the odds in your favor. Find some papers you like, and write to the authors about how great their paper is. Tell them you're interested in pursuing graduate study at their institution, and see if you can get a reply. Don't be too forward; they don't know you at this stage, and are not likely to commit themselves to being your "mentor". The best you can hope for is a foot in the door, instead of a door in the face. Good luck!

  • Try cos.com, it has an expertise database
  • by DynaSoar (714234) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:49AM (#32807944) Journal

    Although more than half of all psychologists are clinical, the following explains why it's hard to find them:

    * 65 percent worked in independent practices (46 percent in individual private practices and 19 percent in group private practices)
    * 14 percent worked in hospitals
    * Five percent worked in clinics
    * Three percent worked in elementary / secondary schools
    * Two percent or less worked in other settings, such as university counseling centers, criminal justice systems, rehabilitation facilities or other human service settings

    Clinical is a treatment oriented field, not a research oriented. Other fields develop the tools that the clinicians use to fix b0rken br@nes. For instance, ADD is attentional, which is a subfield of cognitive psychology. They do research in order to uncover the underlying processes. To treat it with drugs requires research in psychopharmacology. To measure it requires training in methodology and imaging technology such as electrophysiology. You can work in any of those fields and contribute some meaningful work for clinicians to use, and that's just one example from the pages of the DSM.

    You can go for a PhD in neuroscience and get training on many of the subfields. This probably opens up more doors than any other branch.

    Most PsyD programs are clinical in nature. A n exception is (was?) the consortium to which Eastern Virginia Medical School belongs. It was intended to be research oriented, and at least was.

    Clinicians are the ones who make the big bucks treating people. That would be the reason to stay in that field. If you intend to do research you're going to get paid about the same no matter what you're called, but researchers doing hiring assume clinicians are treatment oriented which is for the most part true, and so less likely to take you on in a research slot.

    If you want to do research don't go looking at clinical programs (or at a particular location for that matter) and then for people within them. Go looking for people who are doing work you find exciting and go work for one of them regardless of what the program is called, even something other than psychology. Or go looking
    at the research that interests you and then the people doing it and then the other stuff

    I went the neuroscience route although there wasn't a neuroscience program in place there, only a 'psychological sciences' subfield that covered a lot of ground, and only the clinicians' dissertation said anything other than 'psychology (something or other focus)'. But we put together a program that required a chemistry professor on my committee. When they saw what I'd done in training, I was offered and walked into a job at NIH (non-competitive, just invited) and then Yale (same).

    If you try to stick with clinical, when time comes to get a job they'll take one look, see 'clinical' and expect you to fill a slot that requires licensing as well as serving as a clinician where ever you're at. And that means a lot of face-to-face and a lot less research.

    Still, Virginia Tech's clinical program requires a research project on par with the practicum in terms of effort and knowledge required. Something like that would help prepare you for doing research but wouldn't fix the problems about others' assumptions.

    Most beginning psychology undergrads answer these two question thusly:
    What kind of psychologist do you want to be?
    Clinical.
    Why?
    To help people.
    Somewhere between then and dissertation, almost half decide otherwise.
    You think it's time to consider this?

    "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe." [And some things that I was the first to see, ever.] "Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark

  • Register ment*rb**k.c*m (*o) Install appropriate Web CMS / Community system.
    Ads won't rake in the cash, but I'd presume some specialised service like target classifieds for companies looking for experts or some Thesis Printing Service or something like that might cut it. Definitely worth a try.

    Congratulations. You've just got yourself a brand new niche market web venue.
    Good luck. Drop us a line when your sipping Pina Coladas somewhere on the Bahamas after your sell-out. :-)

    • "when your sipping" should be, "when you're sipping". I understand how a non-native speaker could make this mistake -- it's common among native speakers. I sometimes think that it's so common that corrections are futile, and I wonder how, with so many incorrect examples about, a non-native speaker could learn the language correctly at all. My compliments. (Not complements, by the way, which are something else entirely :-).)

      And yes, your English is better than my German.

  • Did slashdot gets scientologists or other cranks to mark this as "itsnotscience" because he brings up psychology?

    Either slashdot is growing a scientologist population, or people here don't know what constitutes a science.

  • by negro_monolito (1172543) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:56AM (#32807978)

    Disclaimer: I am a current PhD grad in EE. Your field might be different, YMMV, etc.

    Many people on this site will say research the latest papers or even insult you for asking a question regarding the best way to find a research mentor. Sorry about that, grad students can be ... curt at times. I'll try to answer your questions and provide some insight.

    "Is this a common problem across all fields? Is there some ... this need?"

    Sadly, this seems to be a problem in EE too (though I can't say much about other fields). The main reason for this problem is human laziness. Once a student goes through all the trouble to find a decent grad program to enroll to, there seems little reason to document this one-time affair. When I was in a similar situation as yours, I too thought of making a wiki type site where all my experience could be indexed and searchable by other students. However, I quickly became aware that this is pointless. First, PhD research tends to be VERY VERY specific so information useful for me has little value to others. Second, field specific information changes very rapidly so any program catalog would need constant updates or become useless in a matter of months. Third, people are lazy. Once you do through the process of choosing a program you have very little incentive to stream-line it. You will almost likely never encounter the problem again ... so why optimize.

    But all is not lost, here are a few tips:

    1. Don't listen to people telling you to read the all the latest research in your field. You will likely not understand it. That's not meant as an insult at all. While you might know the field you are interested (clinical psychology) you likely don't know any of the specific terms to do a thorough analysis. It would be like me telling a 3rd year EE undergrad interested in signals that they should read an IEEE transaction journal on motion compensated temporal filter DWT lifting algorithm, and somehow be able to understand it and contact the author regarding their research. It's unrealistic and probably does more harm than good (you might get depressed at how little you actually know).

    If you are to read anything, read a light survey paper about clinical psychology to get acquianted with the terms. Then search for schools that do that. I.e. if pre-natal clinical psychology interests you (I have no idea if that's an actual field) then maybe UCLA does good work in it.

    2. Talk. Perhaps your best source of information is a professor in your current school. Ask him/her what schools they would recommend for PhD work. You might be surprised at the answer, often they will recommend other schools and be able to tell you the good/bad. Also, be sure to ask what school they went to (it's usually on the department website anyways). Just make sure to ask more than a single professor's opinion, you don't want to be prejudiced by one guy's pet research project or arch-nemesis grant competitor (yeah, sadly some profs are like that).

    3. Once you find a good school, check the department website and find a professor who does interesting work. Just call him and ask him about his research (professors ALWAYS like to talk about their research ... unlike some grads). Chances are you won't understand 90% of what the guy says, but you will get somewhat of a feel whether you can work with him for the next 2-3 years. Go ahead and call all profs in that research area ... you will learn just by talking over the phone who is reasonable and intelligent and who might be just a tad crazy.

    Which brings me to the most important part ... make sure you find a mentor you can work with for at least 2-3 years. There is no point in trying to work with a genius if he's a jerk ... you won't get anywhere and your research (if any) will suffer. And if you don't find that one star research mentor, that's okay too (maybe he is still doing his postdoc). Just find a school where t

    • Did anyone read the tips of this post with this tempo in their head: Sunscreen Song [youtube.com]
    • by six11 (579) <johnsoggNO@SPAMcmu.edu> on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @09:25AM (#32809762) Homepage

      I was going to post something very similar to this. Yes, this thread is full of nasty naysayers insulting the original poster for asking a basic question. Just ignore them. The parent speaks the truth.

      Two things that I want to stress: First, if you end up getting advice from profs, do it in person. They will be much more willing to give you honest opinions when you're in the room, and it will be interactive so you can have an actual dialog. Keep the email exchanges to a minimum.

      Second: getting a PhD takes a long, long time. The parent poster mentions finding mentor that you can work with for 2--3 years---that is IMHO quite an optimistic view. Even if you've finished your quals/comps/whatever and are a bonafide Candidate, it still might take 4--5 years to finish. Be sure to get involved with a _group_ of some sort, such as a lab or a center. Having a variety of people around is indispensable. I have found this out the hard way. If you end up having bad mojo with one person, even if it is your advisor, you should give yourself the option of switching (though that can have political implications as well, so that's a situational call, and switching should be a last resort.)

      Anyway, good luck.

    • Thanks a lot for this comment. I am a rising junior in CS and I will be applying to grad school next year. About talking to professors at your school, did you send out emails to them or did you meet them, say at a department social ? Which of these is preferred?
      • by reg106 (256893)
        That depends, at least in part, on whether the faculty at your institution show up for department socials. I recommend sending an email requesting a few minutes to meet with them to get advice about graduate school. The faculty member may suggest to stop by during office hours or to set up a appointment. (Or if you send the email the week of a social, perhaps to meet there.) If you don't get a reply to the first message, try again a week or two later. Faculty generally don't have time for long email ex
    • by Convector (897502)
      I would also add that it's better to find a school you like, with multiple options for mentors than to go somewhere to work with a particular individual. I've witnessed an unfortunate incident where three students enrolled in a particular Ph.D. program in Physics, intending to work with a specific physicist who then promptly left academia to go into industry.
  • A few things (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Krahar (1655029) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @04:59AM (#32807998)

    It seems like a text-searchable database could be built fairly quickly and maintained by users, saving countless aspiring grad students thousands of clicks through university websites.

    Saving the time of graduate students is a non-priority in academia. On the contrary, standing jokes revolve around how other people can waste the time of graduate students in order to save some of their own time. How aggressive a form of this you will meet depends entirely on the culture in the subfield you will be doing research in and on your particular adviser. There are too many graduate students and people looking to be graduate students in comparison to how many permanent jobs there are in the field for people with a PhD (in most fields). So most graduate student's aren't going to stick around in the field after graduation and so it doesn't make sense for people to engage as readily with graduate student's as they do with graduates - though lots of people still do. At the same time every adviser is always looking for exceptionally talented and motivated students, and if you can make a concise and convincing case that you are both of those things, then that makes your life easier.

    You would ideally want to have some idea what kind of a human being a given adviser is, though this can be hard with just email. You are going to be stuck with this person having some sort of power over you for three or more years. They will be writing your recommendations for years to come. You want the variety with a positive outlook and some kind of interest in and ability for creating a good environment for their students. You don't want the variety whose main concern is how to turn his or her students into papers that bear the adviser's name.

    There is also a question of how independent you are and want to be. Some advisers will simply tell you to go read papers and do something great, which is exactly what you want if you want to be independent. You might be looking to have a lot more guidance than that, in which case there are other advisers who will want to be very involved - though this usually requires that what you do is very similar to what the adviser does. The social skills of people in academia also vary widely, and you can end up with some very blunt and abrasive people, just as you can end up with the kind of people who would just die if they thought they had offended you in any way.

    The problem here is that there are lots of people looking to be graduate students, so most advisers are not going to be very interested in engaging in a discussion with you about whether or not they are abrasive people just looking to exploit their students. One way to get some idea about someone who looks promising is to ask that person's former students what they thought of their experience with him as their adviser. People ask advisers for evaluations of their former students all the time (just one more reason to choose well), it's only fair that their former students get asked to evaluate them as well. Don't expect anyone to bad-mouth their former adviser, but you can probably read between the lines if there is a big problem.

    To maintain your motivation during your studies, and to perhaps present a better case to an advisor, it also pays off to think about what you might like to do after you graduate. Have a glimpse at offers for post docs right now to see if that sounds at all interesting to you - it's the next step if you are going to stay in academia. You might also look at jobs in industry that might be suited to what you want to do. It's not too important what you think seems good right now, what is important is the activities you have to engage in to be able to have an idea of what seems good, such as looking at job offers. Then it's something you will have in mind so you don't stand there with your thesis in hand three years from now, and then go "oh wait, now I need a job too. I wish I'd started looking for that two years ago." It may also help you to have a more informed opinion about whether studying for a PhD is really what you want to do.

  • When considering grad school, the most important thing is studying under a professor that is doing research you are interested in--that research will also be your research area. You should already have some topics you are interested in, maybe you have a general interest, if you're not sure, flip through some textbooks for topics that you find interesting and then search through the relevant databases (i.e., PsychInfo for Psychology) for research done on that topic. You'll likely find even more narrow focu

  • Are you sure [phdcomics.com] you want to do a Phd?

  • And if that's not what psychology is about, then what bloody use is it? Apparently what it doesn't produce are any research publications with authors' names on them - if it did, then the answer to your question would be blindingly obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense or the merest shred of native intelligence, wouldn't it?
  • Seriously... it's amazing what you can find on there. We met up, got on, had similar interests and the rest is history. So just keep on looking, and make sure you meet your mentor/supervisor and see if you click. If you don't, forget about doing a PhD with them - you need all the help you can get.
  • by Samuar (829173) on Tuesday July 06, 2010 @08:44AM (#32809282)
    As a current UK PhD student nearing the end of my three years, in my opinion you're looking for the wrong thing. Everyone will tell you that you need to be very passionate about your research and that it is the key to success. However, I don't feel that its true. The relationship between the student and supervisor is the most important aspect. If you don't have a good relationship, you will fail. So you should look for a supervisor that you can trust, who has the important qualities and skills (e.g. good communicator) and is willing to make time for you. You want a supervisor who is not happy with the way your current institution teaches its students, but instead is constantly evaluating him or herself to better the way they provide such an education. You don't want someone who will get lost in their own research, or is too busy as a Professor to see you often enough. I think the only way you will know who would work well with you is by comparing the lecturers who taught you for your undergraduate degree. Which ones were happy to provide assistance (e.g. timely, polite responses to your emails?) Which ones made the effort in lectures to aid your understanding by providing voice recordings of their lectures if you missed them, or mind-maps for each lecture, or turned up 15 minutes early if you had any problems? I chose this individual over a particular research topic. Obviously, the down side is that for three years I've been stuck researching artificial neural networks - which may or may not be my first choice. But I don't think I would be 3 months away from finishing if I was being supervised by any other member of staff in my department. Once you have the PhD, you are free to research what ever you like.
    • by Meneguzzi (935620)
      Please mod this guy up, if I had the mod points I'd do it, this is the most insightful piece of advice one can write. The research should be easy for you to grasp (if not, you are not going to the right area), but in finding a good supervisor lies the "art" of a successful PhD.
  • First, check out: http://www.disciplined-minds.com/ [disciplined-minds.com] "Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives"
    """
    Who are you going to be? That is the question.
    In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and

  • http://www.vivoweb.org/ [vivoweb.org] "The national network of scientists will facilitate the discovery of researchers and collaborators across the country. Institutions will participate in the network by installing VIVO, or by providing semantic web-compliant data to the network."

  • I am not trying to be offensive here. But Grad student are not the priority in the academia. Especially those who just finished their undergrad and don't have a Master (which is classical in psychology in America according to psychologist friend). Because Grad student don't know anything of value yet. So maintaining a list of interest for all researcher is pretty much useless.

    I think that "finding" the "right" advisor is not possible. Because if you are not in a PhD program you do not know how things are cl

  • "As an aspiring social scientist preparing to apply to Ph.D. programs"

    Why?

    Are you independently wealthy and feel that having a bonfire is an insufficiently showy way to destroy a quarter million dollars? Or do you think that your name would sound a lot better with 'Dr' in front of it?

    Because I can't think of any other reason to go for a PhD. Unless you think that once you graduate you're going to be one of the three people on the entire continent who somehow manages to get a University job teaching the

  • As an academic researcher, my interests vary depending on the latest developments in the field. It would be not wise for me to publicize these interests in a centralized list or even on my own webpage, as my competition would be more than happy to get some extra insight into what I'm trying and scoop me.

    Thus, this problem is worse than you think. You can't even trust a professor's university webpage to give you an honest account of what they're currently working on. Perhaps clinical psychology is differe

  • "Is this a common problem across all fields?"

    Yes!

    Still, be picky. Don't choose the one closest to your home town, chose the best.

    Use the gratis "Publish or Perish" program by http://www.harzing.com/ [harzing.com] to analyze the particular field you are interested in.

    Don't go for the 2nd best!!!

  • My wife has her PhD in clinical psychology.

    At the PhD level, what you want to do is research the journals. Your university will have access to them. You want to see what your potential mentor has published recently to see if their interests align with yours, then dig deeper on a small set of people (target less than 20 based on recent publications, then research those individuals in detail). Narrow it down to the best 10. Send them email asking them a (small) set of questions. The right mentor will tak

  • Or maybe its just me.

    Either way, if you can't find a mentor on your own, perhaps you shouldn't bother trying to complete a PhD program? Its not a game of Where's Waldo you know? Generally people tend to get a little further into it before trying to find some one else to do their work for them, you haven't even started yet.

  • . . . was to check the graduate programs listing on the American Chemical Society website, which was broken down by division (inorganic, biochem, etc.) and listed by university. I then started checking those particular university websites for the faculty members listed by my interest, and stopped when I'd reached ten universities (about 16 faculty members). Yeah, it took me several hours before I had a list of faculty I wanted to work with, but it's not like this is a decision you want to make in 15 minut
  • Research is an ever-moving target. So are faculty lists. Couple this reality with the limited attention most Universities give to their websites and the problems you are facing are evident.

    That being said, you can get a good idea of what kinds of research you want to do as a grad student, where it is done, and by whom through online research.

    But, first, speak to professors at your current school in order to get some ideas and recommendations. If you're serious about going to grad school then you'll proba

  • If you don't know the field well enough to identify a good mentor in your area of interest, reading Uni web sites won't help.

    Try science citation indices for your subject of interest; look for a prof at a teaching school who is well-cited and has frequent student co-authors. Avoid the guy at the giant research lab who only shares credit with other senior scientists or not at all. Student authors can usually be identified because they have few papers or no Ph.D.

    Finally, if you can't identify a field of int

  • Log into illumina or any other paper search system. Plug in the terms you're interested in, see what papers come up that are widely used as references, and then who the authors and affiliations on those papers are.

    This seems ideal, to me, because it lets you actually read the papers of the people who might be of interest, and it gives you a built in way to check their credibility.

    At my university we have a number of faculty who *say* they're pursuing research in certain areas, but when you look at their pub

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