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


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)