The Paper Chase

This blog page is devoted to information related to the pursuit of advanced degrees; many of you may remember the 1970’s movie by the same title (if you haven’t seen the movie, check it out, it’s very good!). The paper chase: its a lifestyle, a challenge, the best and worst of times, so to speak, a testament to endurance.

Please join me by adding relevant resources and articles to this blog page: tools, tips, tricks, cautions, and celebrations!

  1. April 8, 2011 at 4:24 am

    The Road From Dissertation to Book Has a New Pothole: the Internet
    By Jennifer Howard

    Ann R. Hawkins, a professor of English at Texas Tech University, likes the idea of sharing research, but she’s worried that sharing has gone too far when it comes to students’ dissertations.

    Not long ago, Ms. Hawkins heard from a junior scholar who wanted her to consider his revised dissertation for a series she edits for Pickering & Chatto, an academic press. She liked the idea—until she discovered his work was fully accessible on the Internet. Few would buy the specialized book, she worried, if much of its contents was already freely available.

    “The problem I have is when anyone can either find the dissertation immediately on Google or by going to the university page and just clicking it and downloading it, whether they are in the United States or Taiwan,” Ms. Hawkins says. Unless he could limit access, she told the hopeful author, she wouldn’t consider it for the series.

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  2. April 8, 2011 at 8:57 pm

    A Year After an Alarming Report, the Council of Graduate Schools Marks Progress

    From Inside Higher Ed

    The Council of Graduate Schools has just released a progress report on the steps that universities, government agencies, and industry groups have taken in response to “The Path Forward,” the council’s 2010 white paper on the future of graduate education. “The Path Forward” warned that the United States risks losing its eminence in doctoral education, and it encouraged new public and private investment to increase degree production. The new white paper praises, among other things, the passage of the America Competes Reauthorization Act of 2010, which will support several new programs intended to improve doctoral education in the sciences. The report also lauds Intel Labs’ plan to invest tens of millions of dollars in university research.

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    Read the progress report:

    Read the original report:

  3. April 8, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Redesigning Today’s Graduate Classroom

    By Leonard Cassuto

    No one should deny that graduate education is in a bad way at the moment. But apart from loosing rivers of blood and bile about this online, exactly what are we doing about it?

    ….I recently spoke to a Ph.D.-carrying lawyer who recalled that when she first decided to apply to law school more than 30 years ago, the director of her graduate program actually refused to write her a recommendation because he disapproved of her decision to leave academe. Although the director’s stubbornness is ridiculous, the story is less laughable than it seems. Lots of professors still view nonacademic professions as a distant second choice for graduate students, and that’s unrealistic as well as unfortunate. If we are to welcome Ph.D.’s to venture outside of academe, we have to prepare them for that possibility inside as well as outside our classrooms. Next month I’ll report on another effort that seeks to do just that.

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  4. April 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    The Academic Job Talk

    From The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Graduate Connections Newsletter:
    Professional Development Network Tips

    THE JOB TALK is perhaps the single most important thing you’ll do during an academic interview. On the basis of your presentation, you’ll be evaluated as a scholar, teacher and potential colleague. A dynamic talk is likely to result in a job offer, while a poorly organized, flat or uninspired presentation will almost certainly eliminate you from consideration. Here are some key points to consider as you prepare for an academic job talk.

    Before the Talk

    Different institutions and disciplines have different expectations about the length and format of the job talk. Make sure you know what is expected of you. Attend job talks in your department. Listen to how faculty members evaluate the talk, then figure out what works and what doesn’t. Use this information to guide your preparation.

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  5. April 8, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Changing the Way We Socialize Doctoral Students

    By Leonard Cassuto

    This month’s column begins with the career of an academic I’ll call “Jack.” It ends in the classroom of a professional development seminar—a place where more graduate students need to be.

    Jack got his bachelor’s from an elite college in the early 1980s, and then began graduate school at an elite university. There he exemplified the national trend toward slow completion. He didn’t get his Ph.D. until 12 years later, in the mid-1990s.

    Like many other young Ph.D.’s then and now, Jack had bad luck on the job market despite a solid publication record. He didn’t get a tenure-track job out of the gate, so he took a visiting assistant professorship at a major state university. With that appointment, Jack began a career-long migration in search of permanent employment. That passage took Jack from campus to campus, with his two longest stops lasting four years each; one of those stints was in the writing program of a major private university, and the other was a visiting professorship at a different private university. The visiting job took the form of a series of one-year contracts, so Jack never knew from year to year whether he’d be employed beyond May.

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    Related Articles

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  6. April 9, 2011 at 6:10 am

    For New Ph.D.’s Who Must Lower Their Sights, Some Lessons From an Earlier Generation

    By Audrey Williams June

    When the academic job market is particularly tough, graduates from doctoral programs at the nation’s most-prestigious universities often find themselves weighing job offers, if they can get them at all, from teaching-intensive master’s-level colleges. Having been trained to work at institutions like the research-oriented ones from which they graduated, those newly-minted professors sometimes find themselves out of their element on their new, often rural, campuses.

    Researchers studied a small group of professors who earned their Ph.D.’s in the humanities in the 1970s and settled for such positions, when the job market was much as it is now, tight enough to push some graduates from top-tier colleges into tenure-track positions at less-prestigious institutions that couldn’t wait to hire them. Their study, in which professors reflected on how they managed to remain enthusiastic about their work after careers of two decades or more at master’s-level institutions, is scheduled to be presented on Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association.

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  7. April 15, 2011 at 3:45 am

    Deciding When to Leave

    By Julie Miller Vick and Jennifer S. Furlong

    This month we are going to answer two readers who are essentially asking the same question posed by the Clash some years ago: “Should I stay or should I go?”

    Question: I am about to complete a Ph.D. in the humanities, and I’ve been at my university for about seven years. I’m one of those people who’ve taken a bit longer to finish than is typical in my program. Over the years, I’ve really grown to love living here, and I have a lot of anxiety about leaving for an academic position. At the same time, I don’t want to be one of those people who hang around the campus forever, going from part-time job to part-time job, with no hope of advancement. Do you have any suggestions for someone in my shoes?

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  8. April 18, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Teaching in the Postdoc Space

    By Leonard Cassuto

    Anyone who’s finished graduate school knows that the student-adviser relationship doesn’t end when you get your degree. Most advisers continue to give advice to—that is, to teach—fledgling degree-holders as they test their wings.

    That teaching has gained particular importance as more and more Ph.D.’s take temporary postdoctoral jobs. Some of those positions are CV builders, but many are just stopgaps that keep new graduates in the game so that they can try the job market—with our help—for another round or two. The market has been sickly for a long time, but the sudden seizure that it underwent in 2008 created a critical situation that we’ve been reacting to ever since.

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  9. April 24, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    Paranoid? You Must Be a Grad Student

    By Don Troop

    Memo to grad students: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not about to give you a Ph.D. A mild case of paranoia might even help you navigate the tricky path to that terminal degree, says Roderick M. Kramer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

    It’s an academic cliché that graduate students are paranoid, but Mr. Kramer has actually crafted a linear model to explain it. The model depicts how factors common to the graduate-school experience—like being a newcomer unsure of your standing, and knowing that you’re being sized up constantly—can ultimately induce social paranoia, a heightened sensitivity to what you imagine others might be thinking about you. “That self-consciousness translates into a tendency to be extra vigilant and maybe overprocess information on how you’re treated,” Mr. Kramer says. (He published his model in a 1998 paper, “Paranoid Cognition in Social Systems.”)

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  10. May 12, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Postdocs Can Be Trained to Be More Effective Than Senior Instructors, Study Finds

    By Tushar Rae

    Trained but inexperienced postdoctoral students can teach a college class as well as or better than longtime professors who rely on lectures, if the postdocs learn to incorporate a method of teaching that relies on having students interact with the material they are learning through discussions and assignments synthesizing new and old information and experiences, according to a paper published this week in Science.

    “When there is a good, traditional lecture, the student reviews are high, but when you measure the learning, it is surprising how little is learned,” said Louis Deslauriers, a research associate in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia and one of the lead authors of the paper, “Improved Learning in a Large-Enrollment Physics Class.”

    Mr. Deslauriers and his co-authors—Carl E. Wieman, associate director of science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and Ellen Schelew, a graduate student in the department of physics and astronomy at British Columbia—write in the paper that an inexperienced instructor with the proper training can increase student engagement, raise attendance, and create an environment that is conducive to learning.

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  11. July 6, 2011 at 3:43 am

    Developing an Authentic ePortfolio

    by Lisa Nielsen

    Did you ever feel frustrated that in school you are supposed to spend all this time studying, taking tests, completing worksheets and handing in reports with no audience beyond the teacher and after years of that all your left with is a pile of tests and papers nobody cares about? School shouldn’t be preparing you for more school. Should be preparing students for the world, but unfortunately, the thing that is most important often falls through the cracks and is replaced by more and more testing and measuring. If you’ve decided to opt out of school and opt into the real world, you’ll have time to begin preparing your ePortfolio where you can share with everyone how great you are!

    In the real world ePortfolios are actually just called websites or blogs and the point is to show the world how fabulous you are and what you can do. When you create it here are some of the sections you may consider including.

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  12. July 10, 2011 at 5:47 am

    Grad Student to Professor By Julia Mortyakova

    Concluding my first academic year as a faculty member and the transition from graduate student to a full-time music professor, I want to share some reflections.

    One piece of advice I received years ago about teaching is to “be yourself.” I still believe in this philosophy, more so after my first teaching experience. I am naturally a friendly, informal person. When I started teaching, I noticed myself (late 20s) to be close to my students’ age and among the youngest of my institution’s faculty. This proximity of age made some students view me as more of a friend. Although I am not a dictator in the classroom, the friendship model would make it difficult when it came time to decide about my students’ grades or other academic matters. As a result, I found a better way of approaching my new position — as a leader.

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  13. August 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Want to Be a Good Researcher? Try Teaching By Dan Berrett

    Graduate students in the sciences who both teach and conduct research show greater improvement in their research skills than do those who focus exclusively on laboratory work, says a report to be published in the August 19 issue of Science.

    The report, “Graduate Students’ Teaching Experiences Improve Their Methodological Research Skills,” is notable for being among the first to examine gains in the actual research skills of graduate students rather than what they report about themselves.

    The findings run counter to the conventional wisdom underlying the training and rewarding of graduate students in the sciences, which tends to view teaching as a distraction from research. And the report arrives amid an intensifying national debate about the proper balance between teaching and research by college faculty.

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  14. September 23, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Starting Over, With a Bad Attitude By Jen Robinson

    Let me be clear. I am A.B.D. in my discipline of art history. I did not finish my dissertation. I had a horrible adviser: a noncommunicative boozer and a womanizer, with no voice mail or e-mail, who didn’t care much for me. I was 25 when I began my Ph.D., and instead of being lauded for my pluck and verve, I was eyed like a fresh piece of meat that he wanted to devour.

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  15. October 3, 2011 at 1:33 am

    Encourage Ethical Behavior by Graduate Advisers, 3 Scholars Call for Detailed Codes of Conduct

    By Brenda Medina

    Bad behavior among faculty who teach and advise graduate students can take many forms. It may amount to neglect: an adviser failing to respond to multiple requests for feedback at a crucial stage of a student’s dissertation work. It may be much worse: a professor copying an advisee’s ideas without attribution and trying to pass them off as his own.

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  16. October 28, 2011 at 3:51 am

    Giving Us a Say By Amy Sheeran and Mike Strayer

    In the fall of 2010, at the start of our second year of a Ph.D. program in the humanities at a private research institution, we had enough experience in our department to notice some areas of graduate training that needed improvement.

    In spite of the vast differences in our teaching backgrounds—Amy began the program with no classroom experience, while Mike taught extensively during his master’s studies—we both felt frustrated with the teaching aspect of our degrees. So, as any good graduate student would do, we put our critical-thinking caps on, came up with a list of ideas, and set up a meeting to talk about them with other students from our department.

    We were all in the same boat, after all: pursuing the same degree and the same Holy Grail of a tenure-track position in the humanities. Surely we could all work together to identify the problems, come up with logical solutions, and work with our department administrators to alter the teaching requirements to everyone’s benefit.

    That was, as it turned out, a gross miscalculation on our part.

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  17. November 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    The Graduate Student Writer: Tips to Make the Writing Process Work for You From the Graduate Connections Newsletter

    Professional writers, whether in academic or industry, often live or die by the pen. As a graduate student, you are no doubt discovering that your professional survival depends on your ability to communicate with others about what you know and how you have learned it. Your writing will eventually be competing with that of others who have the same aspirations as you do for jobs, grants and fellowships, and publication in peer-reviewed journals.
    Your ability to exchange ideas, collaborate with others, and ultimately succeed hinges on the ability to write effectively. Here are some timeless tips, straight from the pens of the world’s most renowned authors, to help you develop both style and substance.

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  18. December 24, 2011 at 5:22 am

    Examining Notions of Social Justice Post-Doctoral Degree Completion By Dr. Pamela Felder

    What happens to dreams deferred in graduate school? Inspired by the Langston Hughes’ poem “A Dream Deferred,” this question is an impetus for thinking about post-degree completion notions of social justice. Post-degree completion is emphasized to highlight the ways degree completers actualize their ideals about social justice. In other words, how many of us act out our obligation to serve others in the field of education? Do notions of social justice “dry up?” Are they a heavy load? Do they explode?

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  19. January 23, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Why Doctorates Get Delayed By Scott Jaschik

    In recent discussions of how to shorten the time it takes to complete Ph.D.s (a pressing concern in the humanities, since many students take longer than a decade to finish), some have speculated that a key reason for the lengthy time to degree in recent years has been the terrible job market. Grad students see how dismal the job market is, the theory goes, and suddenly there is no rush to finish that last chapter or schedule a defense.

    This theory is half-right, according to new research released by the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

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    Read the research:

  20. January 28, 2012 at 4:26 am

    Do I Have to Finish My Dissertation? By Ms. Mentor

    Question: What do you recommend for a doctoral candidate who’s lost her passion for her dissertation topic? It’s been a quick-and-dirty end to a long love affair. I had been working as the director of a community program, which (I found out) needed serious help. I’d started turning my notes about the program into a case-study dissertation—when the ax fell. The boss abruptly and without any warning cut the program and left me unemployed. There’s an alternative site where I could finish the research, but I’ve lost my enthusiasm along with my job. I’m now teaching as an adjunct, but in a department that isn’t connected with the subject of my research. Although I’ve finished my coursework and passed comprehensives, it’s hard to get motivated to do the research proposal that’s the next step. Do I tell my committee and my family that I just can’t go on? Or do I suck it up and try to finish?

    Answer: Some call it a dark night of the soul. Ms. Mentor calls it dissertation writing. It’s a process filled with rage and despair, bursts of exhilaration and rivers of whining. A lot like real life—except that you don’t really have to do it if you don’t want to.

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  21. March 2, 2012 at 2:01 am

    What They Didn’t Teach You in Graduate School 2.0 By Paul Gray & David E. Drew

    When you receive a doctoral degree and find your first job, you will be exposed to the realities of academic life. What will it be like? How should you navigate that particular real world you are thrust into?

    Most students, even those who taught part time before earning a Ph.D., have only the vaguest concept of what it’s like to work in the academic world. Our hints here are based on what we have seen after long careers in higher education. They do not reflect the way we think academe should be or could be.

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  22. March 14, 2012 at 12:59 am

    Reasons Not to Go to Grad School By Scott Jaschik

    Three years into an economic downturn that worsened an already tough academic job market, a blog called “100 Reasons NOT to Go to Graduate School” has become popular with grad students seeking to vent.

    Anonymously produced for two years by someone who says the blog is “the result of long experience,” the steadily increasing number of comments on posts testifies that its point of view is resonating with many. The posts are a mix of analysis of the job market (“There are very few jobs”), the realities many see in graduate school (“Graduate seminars can be unbearable”) and the impact of grad school on individuals’ personal lives (“The one-body problem”).

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    Visit the blog:

  23. March 22, 2012 at 11:13 pm

    What I Learned About Surviving Graduate School By Chuck Fidler

    One Saturday night a year ago, as I found myself sitting in my apartment writing a draft IRB proposal, I began to reflect on the lifestyle I had chosen. I immediately recalled an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart mocks the plight of young scholars by saying, “Look at me, I’m a grad student! I’m 30 years old and I made $600 last year!” To which Marge replies: “Bart, don’t make fun of grad students. They just made a terrible life choice.”

    That episode hit a bit too close to home. It reminded me of many awkward moments—like when an old friend came to town recruiting for his Fortune 500 company and we met up. He just threw down the corporate card and started buying drinks for everyone. And there I was annoyed about the $5 cover. He was eating expensive meals in New York, while I was eating TV dinners.

    In spite of all that, I am writing now—in my first position as an assistant professor—to offer a few words of advice on how you can have a successful doctoral experience in the sciences, if you accept a few realities of the graduate-student lifestyle. I was a full-time, fully financed (which is of critical importance unless you are independently wealthy) graduate student. I had a paid position as a teaching assistant, which means, of course, that you do a lot of work without any credit. Here is what I learned.

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  24. April 5, 2012 at 3:34 am

    The Rhetoric of the CV By Joshua R. Eyler

    When you send in your job-application materials, you’re not just assembling separate documents to fulfill the requirements of an ad. Those documents are part of a larger rhetorical whole, and together they form an argument for the viability of your candidacy for a particular job.

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  25. August 20, 2012 at 8:14 pm

    How to Train Graduate Students in Research Ethics: Lessons From 6 Universities By Beth Mole

    What do graduate students consider ethical research conduct? It depends on their adviser, says a new report from the Council of Graduate Schools.

    According to the report, which is being released today, graduate students overly rely on their advisers, rather than university resources, for guidance on thorny issues such as spotting self-plagiarism, identifying research misconduct, or understanding conflicts of interest.

    The findings come three years after the National Science Foundation said that it’s up to universities to make sure researchers receive ethics training required by the federal government.


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