Graduate Student Development

Haggerty and Doyle on 57 ways to screw up in grad school.

Who hasn’t screwed up in grad school? Been there, done that.

Professors Kevin Haggerty (Professor of Sociology and Criminology, University of Alberta) and Aaron Doyle (Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University) recently published a book on the many ways one could screw up in grad school.

“The book, written by two former graduate directors, covers the rookie mistakes made by new graduate students and delivers a how-to guide that sets would-be PhDs on the right track and off the path to failure—which these days includes a only 50 percent completion rate. The authors’ have a bang-up website, the aptly named, and the book has recently been profiled by Inside Higher EdScience, and CBS News’s Money Watch.”  – 

In their book, they identified 57 ways one could “screw up” (reproduced below from the book’s table of contents).

And on Times Higher Education,  Haggerty and Doyle shared 10 of them.

I may be too far along to change course. But for many of you, this book may be just what you need.


An Introduction to Screwing Up
Who are I?
Gendered Pronouns
Thesis vs. Dissertation

Starting Out
1. Do Not Think about Why You Are Applying
2. Ignore the Market
3. Stay at the Same University
4. Follow the Money Blindly
5. Do an Unfunded PhD
6. Do an Interdisciplinary PhD
7. Believe Advertised Completion Times
8. Ignore the Information the University Provides You
9. Expect the Money to Take Care of Itself

10. Go it Alone and Stay Quiet
11. Choose the Coolest Supervisor
12. Have Co-Supervisors
13. Do Not Clarify Your Supervisor’s (or Your Own) Expectations
14. Avoid Your Supervisor and Committee
15. Stay in a Bad Relationship
16. Expect People to Hold Your Hand

Managing Your Program
17. Concentrate Only on Your Thesis
18. Expect to Write the Perfect Comprehensive Exam
19. Select a Topic Entirely for Strategic Reasons
20. Do Not Teach, or Teach a Ton of Courses
21. Do Not Seek Teaching Instruction
22. Move Away from the University Before Finishing Your Degree
23. Postpone Those Tedious Approval Processes
24. Organize Everything Only in Your Head
25. Do Not Attend Conferences, or Attend Droves of Conferences

Your Work and Social Life
26. Concentrate Solely on school
27. Expect Friends and Family to Understand
28. Socialize Only With Your Cliques
29. Get a Job!

30. Write Only your PhD Thesis
31. Postpone Publishing
32. Cover Everything
33. Do Not Position Yourself
34. Write Only to Deadlines
35. Abuse Your Audience

Your Attitude and Actions
36. Expect to be Judged Only on Your Work
37. Have a Thin Skin
38. Be Inconsiderate
39. Become “That” Student
40. Never Compromise
41. Gossip
42. Say Whatever Pops Into Your Head on Social Media

Delicate Maters
43. Assume That the University is More Inclusive Than Other Institutions
44. Rush into a Legal Battle
45. Get Romantically Involved with Faculty
46. Cheat and Plagiarize

Am I Done Yet? On Finishing
47. Skip Job Talks
48. Expect to Land a Job in a Specific University
49. Expect People to Hire You to Teach Your Thesis
50. Turn Down Opportunities to Participate in Job Searches
51. Neglect Other People’s Theses
52. Get an Unknown External Examiner
53. Do Not Understand the Endgame
54. Be Blasé about Your Defense
55. Do Not Plan for Your Job Interview
56. Persevere at All Costs
57. Consider a Non-Academic Career a Form of Failure

Final Thoughts
Appendix: A Sketch of Grad School
The Thesis
The Program
Your Department
The People


5x52 Graduate Student Development Program Evaluation

Jennifer Ann Morrow on 12 Steps on cleaning and prepping dataset

Jennifer Ann Morrow, faculty member in Evaluation, Statistics, and Measurement at the University of Tennessee, recently blogged about data cleaning and data set preparation at AEA365. She describes 12 steps in her post here, and excerpted below. This is a skill that all quantitative (and qualitative!) researchers should know how to do.

She’ll be running a Professional Development workshop  on the same topic at the upcoming Evaluation 2013 conference in Washington, DC.

1. Create a data codebook
a. Datafile names, variable names and labels, value labels, citations for instrument sources, and a project diary
2. Create a data analysis plan
a. General instructions, list of datasets, evaluation questions, variables used, and specific analyses and visuals for each evaluation question
3. Perform initial frequencies – Round 1
a. Conduct frequency analyses on every variable
4. Check for coding mistakes
a. Use the frequencies from Step 3 to compare all values with what is in your codebook. Double check to make sure you have specified missing values
5. Modify and create variables
a. Reverse code (e.g., from 1 to 5 to 5 to 1) any variables that need it, recode any variable values to match your codebook, and create any new variables (e.g., total score) that you will use in future analyses
6. Frequencies and descriptives – Round 2
a. Rerun frequencies on every variable and conduct descriptives (e.g., mean, standard deviation, skewness, kurtosis) on every continuous variable
7. Search for outliers
a. Define what an outlying score is and then decide whether or not to delete, transform, or modify outliers
8. Assess for normality
a. Check to ensure that your values for skewness and kurtosis are not too high and then decide on whether or not to transform your variable, use a non-parametric equivalent, or modify your alpha level for your analysis
9. Dealing with missing data
a. Check for patterns of missing data and then decide if you are going to delete cases/variables or estimate missing data
10. Examine cell sample size
a. Check for equal sample sizes in your grouping variables
11. Frequencies and descriptives – The finale
a. Run your final versions of frequencies and descriptives
12. Assumption testing
a. Conduct the appropriate assumption analyses based on the specific inferential statistics that you will be conducting.


5x52 Graduate Student Development Lifehacking Productivity

Spotlight on Productivity: 5 Steps on Managing your Projects Kanban Style

This post is number three in the Spotlight on Productivity series, in which I examine productivity challenges associated with academic/knowledge work and take stock of current thinking and tools to help us get things done.

In the first post of this series, I characterized academic / knowledge work as having to juggle multiple project. In the second, I argued that the cognitive toll on managing productivity can be alleviated through relegating planning to a productivity system. This is where I introduced David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) system. GTD is useful to shortcut decision-making on tasks. Today, we look at how to manage decision-making with projects.

(By decision-making with projects, I don’t mean project management. Project management has more to do with a set of technical skills involved in managing within projects. My focus here is simply how to juggle between multiple projects.)

Kanban Style

Kanban is a process originating from Toyota manufacturing that now sees adaptation and application to software development and personal productivity. Kanban, Japanese for “billboard” or “signboard”, is a visual method for managing logistics. The way Toyota uses it goes like this: Suppose you’re assembling dashboards for cars. To assemble this dashboard, you need various components that are already pre-assembled upstream: odometer, RPM meters, clocks, car audio panels, navigation systems, etc. As each dashboard gets assembled, components get used up. This drop in component level triggers a signal to upstream manufacturers to manufacture more components just in time for use in the next round of manufacturing. How this differs from typical manufacturing processes is avoiding having large batches of inventory sitting around. By keeping track of the rate at which components are used up, the quality of the components, you benefit from improved product quality and increased productivity through working in small batches, hence “just in time”.

Applying Kanban to Personal Productivity

What we can take away from Kanban are two principles. The first principle is the importance of visualizing productivity. By visualizing productivity, you have a more powerful way of understanding the complexity and demands of your work. Here are five steps to jumpstart the process.

1. Make a list of all the project you are involved in.

2. Make a list of all the publications you are currently working on. Identify the status of each of these writing projects (e.g. conceptualization, initial drafting, waiting for review, editing, copy-editing, submission to journal, revision, etc… )

3. Identify which of the projects/publications are inactive at the moment. (In GTD language, this is your Someday-Maybe/Waiting list.)

4. Identify tasks within each project.

5. (optional) Flag tasks with impending deadlines.

Mapping out your projects this way give you a high-level view of that various projects you’re involved in, and the complexity of the tasks involved.

Here is the second principle. According to Personal Kanban, a site dedicated to applying kanban to personal productivity, it is also important to limit ‘work in progress’. Their reasoning is simple. You can only do so much in a day.

Here is my own Kanban Board that I have been using for some time to help visualize my projects. Here’s a link to a PDF that you can print and use on your own.

personal kanban

In the next post of this series, we’ll complete this personal kanban process by identifying tasks for work-in-progress. We’ll do this through looking at David Seah‘s incredibly useful tool, Emergent Task Planner. Stay tuned. 🙂

5x52 Graduate Student Development Lifehacking Productivity

Spotlight on Productivity

Theming qualitative data
Theming qualitative data.

It’s been a week since I posted on this blog. During this time I have made significant progress on several projects. I analyzed data, wrote up findings, and planted seeds for new projects. Needless to say, I haven’t had the time and space to think about my evaluation and design! Since I have committed to posting once every workday (my 5×52 project), I’m going to be doing a bit of catch up in the next few days. Before returning to discussing evaluation, let’s turn to the topic of productivity.

The next series of post will feature  productivity tools that works well for those of us leading the researcher/evaluator lifestyle.

(List will be updated with links when content becomes available.)

Post 1) Productivity challenges among grad students, researchers, and evaluators

Update. Post 1.5) Getting Things Done: Mindset and Approaches

Post 2) Project Dashboard: Kanban Style

Post 3) How to: Track your time and progress using Task Progress Tracker

Post 4) Day Planning: Emergent Time Planning

Post 5) 5 principles to jumpstarting productivity

Graduate Student Development

Nuggets of Wisdom for Grad Students from AERA 2013 Div. D Grad Stud Seminar

AERA Division D organized a graduate student seminar that took place on the Saturday (Apr 27) of AERA 13. The session, entitled “Preparation, Perspiration, and Progress: Thoughts on Building a Career in Measurement or Research Methodology“, featured established academics and industry professionals working in measurement (list below). The speakers reflected back on their career and identified lessons for graduate students. Here’s what they have to say (in no particular order; speaker attributed where possible).

On scholarship…

Find people who will constructively criticize your work (Kane).

Learn to take feedback. People will also become more honest with you, as a result.

Invite feedback from a variety of audience (i.e. beyond your immediate colleagues or folks interested in your field).
Embrace your ignorance.
On on-the-job…
Be legally defensible when making decisions (in the context of consulting / educational testing).
On work-life balance… 

Your job is not your life. And your life is not job.

Your work is more than your job.

On transitioning from grad student to faculty…
Position yourself as a colleague. Reshape the power relation.
Take responsibility of checking the  accuracy and ensuring quality of  work (Kane; in the context of being handed a dataset)
On interviewing and asking intelligent, meaningful questions…
Under what circumstances do you feel that you grow best?
What ties you together as a faculty?
On joining a faculty…
Find mentors who can help you with your scholarship and navigate the politics of the faculty.
Be confident but not arrogant about your work and yourself.

And the one advice that most resonates with me at the moment…

On developing scholarship….
Write every day.

And, there you have it. Many thanks to AERA Division D for organizing this worthwhile session!

What do you think? Do you have tips of your own? Share below!


Tasha Beretvas, The University of Texas – Austin
Erika Hall, National Center for the Improvement of Educational Assessment
Michael T. Kane, Educational Testing Service
Aaron Kuntz, University of Alabama
Jacqueline P. Leighton, University of Alberta
David M. Osher, American Institutes for Research
Emily J. Shaw, The College Board (Session Organizer/Chair)

Graduate Student Development Main

11 Insider Tips on How to be Photographed at a Social Event

If you attend any social events these days, be it a wedding, a business meeting, or a birthday party, chances are someone will be photographing the event. Learning how to be photographed as an attendee and how to be comfortable in front of a camera goes a long way both personally and professionally. You’ll help to ensure that the most flattering ‘you’ is captured, and this, in turn, will ensure that you’ll have one kick-ass image that you could use for your own blog, Facebook, or portfolio! As an event photographer, I have shot thousands of images of folks attending social events. Let me give you 11 insider tips on how to be photographed at a social event.

Professional photographers are best at making attendees feel comfortable. But they can be the most intimidating with their professional gear. Professional photographers are there to capture the best of the event: the atmosphere, the decorations, the attendees, their interactions, and the “buzz” of the event. A skilled professional photographer knows how to shoot an event without being intrusive. A skilled photographer makes his/her presence known in order to help his subjects feel at ease. The professional photographer will try to stay stealthy. While you may not know when a photographer may photograph you, do know that photographers only want to publish the best of you.

Without further ado, here are 11 tips for being photographed in a social event as an attendee.

11. When in doubt, relax and smile. Enjoy yourself.

10. When spotted by the photographer, keep doing what you’re doing, unless otherwise instructed. There’s no need to suddenly stop and smile for the camera. The photographer is often interested in candid shots of people mingling, interacting, and generally having a good time. If you know you’re being photographed doing something, it does help if you slow your action by just a tad. If you would prefer to not be photographed, simply smile and wave no.

9. Act like you’re interested in your companions, even if you’re not.

8. Tyra Banks knows how it’s done: smize. Smile and let your eyes sparkle, especially when you’re talking to someone else. Photographers want to see life and engagement in your eyes.

7. When being photographed in a group shot (you know those elementary school class photos where everybody stands in rows), don’t leave a gaping hole between you and the next person. Stand close, shoulder-to-shoulder, and stand tall. Stand on both feet. Smile.

6. If a photographer raises a lens at you, it’s because he noticed you doing something interesting or photo-worthy. The photographer will likely stay on you for a few seconds, snapping consecutive shots, hoping one might work out. So, keep on doing whatever you were doing.

5. If there’s a speaker speaking at the event, try to stand/sit close to the speaker. Don’t be the odd one lingering at the back of the room.

4. If you’re being photographed chatting in a small group (the “huddle shots”), make sure you’re looking at the speaker. You don’t want to be the odd one out looking disinterested. If you’re chatting with another person (2-person shot), try to stand shoulder-to-shoulder (and not facing each other). This opens up a space for the photographer to get in and photograph the two of you chatting.

3. Don’t track the photographer at an event. Don’t start looking for where he/she is.

2. Photographers have no interest in photographing you eating. Don’t worry. Do not stuff your face full of food if you want to be photographed. If an event serves food, carry your plate near your belly level and not at the chest level. No body wants to see a plate of sandwich.

1. Photographers love animated speakers. When you’re gesturing, keep it hands above your waistline but below your chin. Do not let your hands block your face or eyes. Do what conductors do—they work within an imaginary box that’s above the waist, below the chin, and extends left-and-right. Never crisscross your arms.

Above all, have trust in your photographers. They’re there to make you look good! Be gentle and kind to the photographer. His goal is to bring out the best of you and highlight how awesome the event was.