Good Grad: Introduction

How to Be a Good Graduate Student
by Marie desJardins

This article originated with a discussion I had with several women professors about the problems women face in graduate school, and how more women could be encouraged to go to graduate school in computer science. Eventually, the conversation turned to the question of what these women could do in their interactions with women students to support and encourage them. I volunteered that over the course of my graduate career I had collected a variety of papers and e-mail discussions about how to be a good advisor, how to get through graduate school, and issues facing women. They were eager to get this material, and I told them I would sort through it when I got a chance.

After mentioning this project to a number of people, both graduate students and faculty -- all of whom expressed an interest in anything I could give them -- I realized two things: first, the issues that we were talking about really were not just women's issues but were of interest to all graduate students, and to all caring advisors. Second, in order to disseminate the information I had collected (and was starting to collect from others) it seemed to make more sense to compile a bibliography, and write a paper that would summarize the most useful advice and suggestions I had collected.

I solicited inputs from friends and colleagues via mailing lists and Internet bulletin boards, and collected almost an overwhelming amount of information. Sorting through it and attempting to distill the collective wisdom of dozens of articles and hundreds of e-mail messages has not been an easy task, but I hope that the results provide a useful resource for graduate students and advisors alike. The advice I give here is directed towards Ph.D. students in computer science and their advisors, since that is my background, but I believe that much of it applies to graduate students in graduate certificate programs in other areas as well."

In my experience, the two main things that make graduate school hard are the unstructured nature of the process, and the lack of information about what you should spend your time on. I hope that this article will provide information for both graduate students and advisors that will help make the process less painful.

I owe a debt of gratitude to David Chapman, whose paper ([chapman]) was an invaluable reference for me not only during the writing of this article, but during graduate school as well.

The goals of this article are to raise awareness of the need for a healthy and interactive graduate student-advisor relationship, to provide pointers and guidance for both advisors and graduate students in navigating the maze of a doctoral degree, and to give references and resources for those who hope to learn more.

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Science Quote

'I believe there is no philosophical high-road in science, with epistemological signposts. No, we are in a jungle and find our way by trial and error, building our road behind us as we proceed.'

Max Born

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