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Academic Guidance Academic Guidance - Academic guidance for those pursuing a college degree... what college? Grad school? PhD help?


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Old December 31st, 2017, 10:40 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by orestes View Post
I would discount that entirely actually... assuming that a person is going to get along with you or support you, or your particular view, or project is a pretty decent way to set yourself up for failure in the first place.
Well, I am not saying one should enter gradschool assuming to receive support from anyone, rather, support is something one has to earn by working hard, conducting oneself properly and by actively approaching the right people.

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I'd say this response is geared towards the concept of academic elitism and snobbery but it wouldn't be the most constructive or helpful thing to say.
I would say, rather, that this response takes the reality on the ground into account. The gradschool one went to is a very good predictor of later academic success, a fact that you implicitly acknowledged in post #8, and thus going to a good one will make life much easier. In fact, and in many cases, it will make an academic career possible, at all. Not saying this is ideal or even fair, but having big names on your resume and being acquainted with influential people often is the difference between getting an invitation to important conferences or getting an article into an important journal, and failing to do so.

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Your first research dissertation is not going to get you the type of funding that you might expect it may... That's not really a matter of doubt to be honest.
Certainly, but the likelihood of getting any funding at all is much higher at some universities as compared to others.

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You wont get all the funding you dream about unless you can think of something that is novel, relevant, and it pertains to something of significance to the historical community.
This is also true, but to come up with something novel and relevant and significant is more likely if you have a better research environment in terms of resources and connections. This is especially important in history as the novelty of research is positively correlated with a good knowledge of the relevant sources. To discover new sources, or to be able to ask new and significant questions to familar sources, you have to first get a hold of both the sources and the pertinent literature, for example. This will be much easier if you do not have to travel to other institutions on your own expense, and instead you just visit your local university library or take part in an international exchange program.

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You also wont win any brownie points for the amount of connections you can make either. At some point you have to stop and smell the stench of reality. It'd be great if we could all study what we want and go where we want, but we all have to look at the reality of feasibility.
You might not win brownie points, but invitations, publications, fellowships, cooperation partners or actual university positions by allocating some of your time to cultivating a network of personal contacts. And this will be less time if you are already at an institution where influential people are numerous.

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You might want to live and study overseas, about a topic that is only pertinent to a particular area you're interested in but you have to look at the reality of whether its feasible or even practical.
Obviously, but the better your university, the more becomes feasible and the more you can accomplish. It all comes down to the fundamental principle of economy: the better your university, the more you can accomplish with the same level of effort, or you can accomplish the same with a lower level effort.

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Finally even if it is feasible, is it achievable, by one person, without research assistants. This will be the main sticking point. I have a personal habit of sometimes picking off more than I can chew. I got through my program and came out with an A level result a bare A or a Class 2 A/Class 2 1 mark.

My biggest problem is that I got sick in the first year of my program, which was compounded by the stress of the program and achieving my research goals for my thesis. The net result is that I went into a spiral of depression and nearly didn't come out the other side of it. In fact I have created more problems for myself and I am still battling with mental fatigue as a result, which sometimes visibly affects my posting on this forum and then sometimes I just draw a mental blank. That's part of the reality of overworking yourself to breaking point.

A lot of people without more resilience don't come out of these depressive cycles. The stress of completing a thesis, the stress of doing post-graduate work as my program was partially by course work, and the stress of life. The reality check is that you will be stretched and stressed beyond belief. I hope that you can find a good psychologist or that your university provides you one during the process as you will need someone to talk to about life and study matters if you want to stay on top of things.
Learning how to "tone down" one's intitial research plans and to know where one's own limits are in terms of energy and stress resistance certainly is one of the most important things at gradschool.
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Old January 1st, 2018, 02:20 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
Well, I am not saying one should enter gradschool assuming to receive support from anyone, rather, support is something one has to earn by working hard, conducting oneself properly and by actively approaching the right people.
It all depends... My alumni school would not rate a mention in the grand scheme of places to be in the world. It's a new university, most recently breaking into the top 500 of new universities in the world. Pros and cons... My attitude and behavior in my undergraduate determined the fact that I could well have had any potential supervisor I would have liked at my university.

This is the thing some people don't appreciate in the grand scheme of things. Being on first name basis with your supervisor and academic peers and having the ability to conference with them while at your university kind of does have a habit of making your life easier. If you so choose to attend a university that happens to have 20,000 students instead of 5,000 it becomes a case where you're just another face in the crowd and outside of the set drop in times you may not be able to get a chance to see your supervisor at all.

During my program I had a pretty significant amount of leeway, and being on first name basis with my supervisor meant that I could most likely ask questions outside of those times if necessary. While one of the key tasks of completing a post-graduate program is the ability to work independently its always valuable to be able to share ideas and questions with your supervisor.

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Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
I would say, rather, that this response takes the reality on the ground into account. The gradschool one went to is a very good predictor of later academic success, a fact that you implicitly acknowledged in post #8, and thus going to a good one will make life much easier. In fact, and in many cases, it will make an academic career possible, at all. Not saying this is ideal or even fair, but having big names on your resume and being acquainted with influential people often is the difference between getting an invitation to important conferences or getting an article into an important journal, and failing to do so.
The reality of a class based system in academia is obvious and self-evident to anyone who has spent more than a couple of days in a university. I don't advocate for it, it just simply is the nature of the beast. I wouldn't say that where you start out at really makes much of a difference however. Your Honors or optionally masters (in my case I've made unnecessary) is pretty much about putting the runs on the board. It's generally not going to be something amazing and in actuality I've conferenced with a particular academic who went to one of the United Kingdom's ancient universities... Looking back on their thesis, despite everything else, they look back and hate their first thesis. I would say I've put myself in the same basket that I'm not much of a fan of my first thesis, but it put the runs on the board should I wish to continue down this pathway further into academia.


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Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
Certainly, but the likelihood of getting any funding at all is much higher at some universities as compared to others.
This also depends on where the people are that happen to be the preeminent researchers in their field. Given the context of my thesis if I wanted to go further with it, the majority of experts in my field happen to be in Australia. The other one I would have liked to work with is now working at the University of British Columbia in Canada. When you're working on something specific life has a way of directing you to places you would otherwise not consider studying at.

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Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
This is also true, but to come up with something novel and relevant and significant is more likely if you have a better research environment in terms of resources and connections. This is especially important in history as the novelty of research is positively correlated with a good knowledge of the relevant sources. To discover new sources, or to be able to ask new and significant questions to familar sources, you have to first get a hold of both the sources and the pertinent literature, for example. This will be much easier if you do not have to travel to other institutions on your own expense, and instead you just visit your local university library or take part in an international exchange program.
Novelty of research, or at least being able to flip a question on its head is most definitely correlated with being well read in your area and being able to identify a knowledge gap. It is easier to be well read across your field simply by having access to the resources in the first place. This created a conundrum for myself that I solved by working within the community I directly lived in. If you have more resources then perhaps you can work further away than transport distance although I can't foresee that you will get the funding to spend any great extent of time overseas as a masters student without a name or any basis for it, and this might not be time sufficient to complete the aims of your project.

Over the extent of my program I was still wanting to go back to where I started from and ask more questions. The amount of back and forth I did with my interview candidates meant that it would become difficult or infeasible to do my own project any other way than locally or on the ground.

As to the nature of travel between institutes, where there is a will there is a way. You make it happen if you really want it to happen, that's just human nature. It would have been nice to have resources at my finger tips, but you make do with the circumstances of your life and you use your own initiative. You look back at the situation, and it becomes a good talking point in your future interviews with other academics should you wish to go further down the pathway.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
You might not win brownie points, but invitations, publications, fellowships, cooperation partners or actual university positions by allocating some of your time to cultivating a network of personal contacts. And this will be less time if you are already at an institution where influential people are numerous.
At this point of starting out most of these are not important. You get published on the basis of your work, I had cooperation partners on the basis of using my own skills of making acquaintances with important people in your life. Research fellowships come with more runs on the board and personal contacts, I have already made, or can make through word of mouth with contacts I've made at my alumni school, or off the back of my own ability to talk to people and occasionally being forward enough to ask people questions that on the basis of your "rank" in the "academic society" you probably shouldn't ask.

As you could probably infer I'm not really afraid of asking questions to people that other people would put above themselves. If I really wanted to work with a particular person I'd pick up the dog and bone and ask them myself to be honest, elite or otherwise it doesn't really phase me and in this particular industry it works more often than others might suggest.[/QUOTE]


Quote:
Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
Obviously, but the better your university, the more becomes feasible and the more you can accomplish. It all comes down to the fundamental principle of economy: the better your university, the more you can accomplish with the same level of effort, or you can accomplish the same with a lower level effort.
You can accomplish the same amount of work, it comes with the principle of that thing called not being lazy...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Entreri View Post
Learning how to "tone down" one's intitial research plans and to know where one's own limits are in terms of energy and stress resistance certainly is one of the most important things at gradschool.
I agree, but sometimes it really does not matter. No one plans to get a salmonella infection and end up with IBS as a result. I talked to my supervisor and they gave me extra brownie points for initiative in not withdrawing from the program altogether. When you're undertaking a thesis life has a way of throwing you extra curveballs you don't actually need.

I'm aware I may be speaking out of turn and from less experience than I might otherwise have so I'm going to leave it at that.
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Old January 5th, 2018, 07:28 PM   #13
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I get where you are coming from, and I am sympathetic to your hypothesis, which is, or so it seems to me, that whereever one studies one might be able to accomplish as much as the ones studying at the top schools under certain circumstances. However, I think my point stills stands: at a top school you will either be able to achieve the same with less effort, or achieve more with equal effort, on average.
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