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Finding a Research Mentor?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the there's-your-thesis-right-there dept.

Education 162

bsomerville writes "As an aspiring social scientist preparing to apply to Ph.D. programs, I'm keen to find a faculty mentor somewhere in North America who shares my research interests. This is more difficult than I thought it would be. While links to program websites are readily available, I'm surprised to find no comprehensive collection of faculty research interests in my field (clinical psychology). Instead this information is buried several levels down in each university website. Is this a common problem across all fields? Is there some inherent reason why no wiki-type Web resource exists to meet this need? It seems like a text-searchable database could be built fairly quickly and maintained by users, saving countless aspiring grad students thousands of clicks through university websites."

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Intestines want to be free! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807348)

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Re:Intestines want to be free! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807386)

keep up with the good work

saving countless aspiring grad students thousands (-1, Offtopic)

da5idnetlimit.com (410908) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807358)

I am the bursar of the university.

And I just got our Google ad report.

And you are banned. For life.

See who's publishing in your areas of interest (5, Informative)

inflamed (1156277) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807374)

Use ISI Web of Knowledge. Search for the terms you are interested in. Find papers. Sort by date. Who's publishing in your field these days? This is who you want to talk to.

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807388)

Does it take a finished PhD to find out that this might be a good approach?

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807488)

I second that. It is a great tool.

If you know how to use it, It can prepare you a list of the most useful papers for a litrature review too.

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (5, Informative)

Obfiscator (150451) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807578)

I would add something to this. It's typically better to work with someone who is well-known in the field (i.e. someone who is probably doing higher quality research). That's almost impossible to tell if you are new to the field, but ISI Web of Knowledge also lists the number of times an article has been cited. It's not a perfect measure of the usefulness of the article to the field, but it's a good zeroth-order approximation. Start with the papers which have the most citations (keeping in mind that they will be a bit older) and work your way down.

In this same line, you should figure out if you want to work for an old, established professor, or a young, up-and-coming assistant professor. The methods/environments in the two situations can be quite different, and it's good to have an idea of what you're looking for.

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807598)

Go to your favorite search engine and look for "conference or journal ranking clinical psychology".

Pick the first three or four of them and look at the papers that have been published and by whom. A good professor might have several papers there.

Find where he is and contact him/her. You might want to be bold enough to call the professor on the phone, since they receive tons of applications via email. Some of my friends did it and it worked for them.

You have to start applying very early as the application process can take several months in good university.

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (1)

wmac (1107843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807894)

And then you mostly get a lot of junk papers along with the others. Later if someone looks into your reference list he will either cry or laugh!

ISI paper is not good because of that beautiful label. It is because it helps you identify good research papers and journals.

I would not however ignore conferences specially the good ones. It will help a researcher to find new ideas being worked on. I just say starting a research from mostly junk, unfinished and not very well evaluated works might not be as useful.

Find current authors in the field (3, Insightful)

golodh (893453) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807604)

Yes, this is definitely the way to go in the absence of being able to get help from any competent faculty member in the general field you are interested in (this doesn't have to be an exact match) where you got your MSc. Is there a specific reason you didn't speak to one of those? Faculty members are supposed to know something about the area they're working in (and they usually do). If nothing else, they will know where to look, how to look, and what to look for. But you can't go wrong doing a literature analysis. You may also ask your librarian for help in this respect, especially bout where to find and how to use citation indexes for journals and individuals. They're not everything, but they're a factor.

Oh, and don't mind all those comments chiding you for not knowing anything about the area you're planning to specialize in. It's not exactly a point in your favor, but I've seen many aspiring Ph.D. students don't know who is who in the research area that's caught their interest, and they usually don't know much about the state of play in that area either (which is what they will find out in the first 6 months of their Ph.D. training). It will definitely add to their workload but that's why doing a Ph.D means specializing in a specific area.

Re:Find current authors in the field (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807776)

'You may also ask your librarian for help in this respect,...'

Ooook!

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (1)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807658)

Yea, but be aware that by the time things are published, they can be fairly old. Depending on the field, it can take a year or two to get published. Add up the other times, and you find out what was interesting about 4 years ago...

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (2, Informative)

wmac (1107843) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807912)

In ISI web of knowledge it is possible to categorize papers by publishing year. You can then select the last 4-5 years and then download a list of all those papers (if you have endnote or endnote web you can even download most of the papers).

You can for example search on specific terms, and then limit to a time period, number of citations and other criteria and hopefully get a very good starting point for reading and literature review.

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (1)

JambisJubilee (784493) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808346)

This is who you want to talk to.

And this is the most important part. Of course you want to work with someone who is doing good work, but you also want to work somewhere you like. IMHO the best way to do this is to talk with your potential advisor before you fill out any paperwork.

Be sure to take his current students out for a drink to get a feel for how they like working for him or her too.

Re:See who's publishing in your areas of interest (2, Informative)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808454)

I would mod you up (have mod points) but I see you are already at 5. Unfortunately it seems ISI WoK is not free to access (and papers are mainly non-free.

Instead I would suggest to also look for the Public Library of Science [plos.org] (PLoS one) or Scirus [scirus.com] .

If possible, Scopus [scopus.com] is a really really *great* resource to find papers. Unfortunately it is also non-free.

Why no web resource? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807396)

My research interests aren't immutable, and I don't entirely know what they are. If I run across a good idea, it can become a research interest. So, (a) who has the time to write such a web page, and (b) it would be wrong anyway.

Also, research interests are (at least partially) an administrative fake. Administrators and research councils like departments to have "research programs" (God only knows why...). Department heads respond to this and ask professors for their "research interests". Professors look at their recent publications and write a one-paragraph plausible story about what their research interests must have been. But it's all after-the-fact and (as the financial people say) past performance has no relationship to future research.

I speak as someone who makes their living doing research.

Great idea (3, Interesting)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807402)

Great idea. Why don't you start it?

Re:Great idea (3, Insightful)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807934)

Doesn't matter if he starts it, the biggest hurdle is getting people to even contribute.

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32809110)

Putting the site up is asking people to contribute.

Re:Great idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32809590)

He didn't say "asking" people to contribute, numbnuts, he said "getting" people to contribute.

Re:Great idea (1)

tiger_turned_lion (949703) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808822)

agreed... stop whining and do it your self

Wrong way to go about it (4, Insightful)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807416)

If you are trying to find a mentor in any scientific field, you don't go looking for "lists" of interests. I don't even know what that refers to. You find recently published primary literature in areas you have interest in, and speak to those authors. This helps you find people who are actively working in the field you seek to be a part of. Even if the authors themselves aren't right for you, they are more likely to know other people in the field than anyone else.

Frankly, I'm kind of shocked. You are applying to PhD programs, but don't currently know any scientists in the field? What about at your undergraduate institution? How did you get interested in social science without reading any papers?

Re:Wrong way to go about it (3, Interesting)

minsk (805035) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807478)

The other *big* reason to start your inquiry with published papers: Unless your initial e-mail shows that you have read and understood some of the professor's papers, your request is likely going to be ignored. The professors I know get requests every day from random students seeking a graduate supervisor. Many of them are form e-mails. Many more simply show no idea what the professor does. They all get deleted.

Express interest in a part of their work which is interesting to you, and come up with a few questions about their future work.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807504)

excellent point. these days, a given professor's field is usually pretty small. they only want to talk shop with people who both understand their niche and show actual intellectual curiosity in it.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807802)

These form superviser requests are bad enough that I get them too every once in a while, and I'm just a student myself with no access to the supervising that the emails ask for. They also incorrectly refer to me as "professor", and the requests are in fields I know nothing of.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808492)

Frequently, these sorts of e-mails are from foreign students who can't afford to come to the professor's country to study, so they're fishing everywhere they can in order to get financial support.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (2, Interesting)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808498)

It depends...

IF you have got your own funding, researchers are most likely to "pay attention" to you. So it is a good idea to start your first email communication with "Using my own funding resources, I want do my PhD in a field related to your current work."

That is specially true in UK (well, at least it is where I experienced it on first-hand.

It is better if you actually mention one or two of the papers *they* worked on (note: the ones where they where first or second authors; if they are last authors, chances are that they didn't even read the paper).

The professors I know (Agricultural Economics, Computer Science and Social Sciences) are usually looking for good PhD candidates.

In some places, I have seen the process is like this:
1. Wannabe student sends an introductory email to Top-notch faculty professor [TNFP]
2. TNFP quickly glance over email and IF the position includes "self funded" or a variation, it gets more than 10seconds of attention.

3. If TNFP does not have time for another PhD (most likely), he forwards the email to *all* the people in the department (saying something like "this person is interested in doing a PhD in our department, self-funded, in case anyone is interested"

4. *If* anyone is interested he will reply to TNFP and then a reply email will be sent to the wannabe PhD.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32808698)

IF you have got your own funding, researchers are most likely to "pay attention" to you. So it is a good idea to start your first email communication with "Using my own funding resources, I want do my PhD in a field related to your current work."

This would work. It's also the most horrible idea ever. Why the hell would you do that? I got paid to get my Ph.D., not the other way around.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807670)

Oh, bull****. Shouldn't be shocked. Some people are interested in the ideas more than the people. For instance, I was clueless when I went to grad school and now (30 years later) I've done fairly well.

Knowing who is who certainly helps, but everyone starts out ignorant of something.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807688)

I'm not shocked he doesn't have an advisor. I'm shocked that he thought going to university websites would be the way to go.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

Sannish (803665) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807778)

Two years ago I started applying for PhD programs in physics and had no idea where to start. I never had any research experience, I did not have an advisor and I knew barely anything about graduate school. So I trawled through university websites looking at departments and summaries of professors research interest. I never thought of looking at published papers since I never read them as an undergraduate (I was applying after my 3rd year which I spent abroad). And now I am finishing a fairly successful first year in my PhD program. In retrospect I should have looked at authors of papers but without a network of people in or near graduate school someone wouldn't know to look at papers.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

scapermoya (769847) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807798)

I have to ask... what made you want to pursue a PhD if you weren't acquainted with papers and research? General interest?

Re:Wrong way to go about it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807842)

'You are applying to PhD programs, but don't currently know any scientists in the field?'

He needs US scientists, all the best he read about are foreigners.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

kklein (900361) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807926)

I haven't seen mod points in over a year, otherwise you'd have some right now.

WTF? Is he applying to PhD programs just out of undergrad? I kinda just picked a place for my master's, but I wish I'd known more about who was doing what; I would have gone somewhere else.

Picking PhD programs to apply to (coming up) isn't hard. It's more a case of narrowing them down, since they're a lot of work. By the time you're looking at PhDs, you should probably know some of the people you're trying to study under. At the very least, you should already know their work, and for that reason want to study under them.

Also... Who the hell says "study mentor?" Your advisor/supervisor isn't really your mentor. He's not there to lead you to secret knowledge. He's there to put hoops in front of you to jump and to tell you when your work isn't up to snuff. A PhD is almost entirely done on your own!

Amen! (2, Interesting)

Weezul (52464) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808028)

This.

Another key concerns is that the advisorial relationship must necessarily be rather personal. You shouldn't assume you'll end up doing your PhD with the luminary in whatever specialization you initially approached. There are therefore several important criteria that matter when choosing a graduate program, which I'll list in rough order of importance :

(1) institution reputation, (2) faculty size, (3) faculty student ratio, (4) teaching workload, (5) faculty areas of interests, and (6) how much pay you.

Examples : You should not attend graduate schools like Perdue that require an insane teaching load, well you'd get stuck there for like 7+ years. You obviously should pick an institution with the significantly better name too, even if they don't carry your specialization. You should however be careful about institutions like Harvard with a tiny faculty and many students per professor, although choose them if your areas of interest match.

Re:Amen! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32808842)

Perdue??? And the chickens are lazy students. Try Purdue instead.

Re:Wrong way to go about it (1)

infalliable (1239578) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808974)

Exactly, start looking at the major databases that do exist.

Journal articles are easily searchable, even by Google Scholar if you want a decent, use anywhere search engine. Get the authors/institutions from the papers, not by randomly searching school webpages.

After you locate an interesting person, determine how that department does it's admissions. Some admit students then let them find advisors. Some pair up advisors and students at admission time. It depends on the school and on department.

Be sure to find out if the potential advisor is a douche too. Nothing makes grad school worse than an advisor who is a pain in the ass. When I was still in school, those of us who get along well with our advisors generally liked the entire experience while those that didn't were constantly unhappy and hated it.

Consider that as your first piece of PhD research (4, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807422)

If you can't get over this hurdle, then your chances of doing original and rigorous work in your chosen field don't look that good.

Sometimes it's necessary to stop looking for answers on the internet and start doing plain, old-fashioned manual research. Have you asked the lecturers / staff at your existing college - they must have some contacts, to have taught you in the first place. How about looking up the authors of papers that interest you and actually talking to them.

get out there and network.

Re:Consider that as your first piece of PhD resear (1)

alexandre_ganso (1227152) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807650)

thank god my research field is computing science itself. I can't remember when I had to do "plain, old-fashioned manual research" last time. And I am thankful for that!

"Is this a common problem across all fields?" (2, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807428)

Yes.

Some departments do a very good job of organizing their faculty lists by research interest. Some don't. Unfortunately, it's almost completely up to whoever the department hires to do their web site design (or they use a school-wide template, but in that case, it's up to whoever designs the template.) AFAIK, there's no real standard in any field -- not even in CS, which seems like it would be the most likely place for such a standard to emerge.

Re:"Is this a common problem across all fields?" (3, Informative)

Protonk (599901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807498)

I'll second this. In economics, where there is a (nominally) unified classification code [aeaweb.org] for both jobs and research, most filled positions don't match the stated classification code. A professor may be hired to do time-series work but end up teaching only one time series course and supervising quantile regression work. Plenty of long-term faculty are hired under classification codes which described their early-career research interests but no more describe their current work than would your 4th grade movie tastes describe your current library. And the faculty don't bother changing that crap on the website because nobody really cares. No one who matters is going to search for faculty by the classification on the website. Press will go through a press office, colleagues will know the research and students will twist in the wind. :)

Scour the literature, or just don't bother (4, Insightful)

Protonk (599901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807430)

One way to determine what professors might share interests of yours would be to review books and articles you have read on the subject and pay close attention to the cited works. Who writes recent and interesting articles on a topic which excites you? Who has unpublished works in progress which are cited in current literature? If you have a clear conception of your research interests this should not be hard at all. Google scholar can help you here, as you can search by citation and by author (though the author search fails gracelessly when faced w/ abbreviations and authors with the same name). Alternately you can search Web of Science if you have an institutional account or look around for a recent lit review article. When you find a potential match, look for a few things. First make sure they are actually teaching at that school and not on some long term sabbatical or recently moved to some fancier university. Second check their current PhD students to see if they are already supervising a bunch. They don't need to be on your committee in order to mentor you, but it helps. Third (and this relates to the "don't bother"), make sure they are at a good school. Pedigree matters a LOT in academia, don't believe anyone who tells you different. A good dissertation is critical, but an average dissertation from a Harvard PhD gets you a lot further than an above average dissertation from State U. (assuming State U. isn't a public ivy)--that doesn't even begin to touch the non-signaling benefits of going to a good school. Of course "good school" is field dependent. But in most cases the top 10 and even the top 20 are usually the same.

This is all assuming you want to get that PhD in order to teach someplace or do fieldwork. If you just want to learn, disregard all that stuff above about good schools. A lot of those top schools are pretty miserable for grad students if your goal is to learn.

However, if you want to get placed somewhere good, then you can avoid this tedious search and simply apply to the best schools out there and hope you get in a top 10-20 institution. It's really mercenary, but that's how it works.

Psychology is not science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807440)

As medical doctors says here in Denmark, Psychology has no proven effect.
All medical care must be tested before it is approved for wider deployment. Psychology has no clinical tests proving it is significantly better than medicine, talking to friends or nothing at all. Psychologists do not have any interest in proof that they are worthless.

Re:Psychology is not science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807570)

I was about to ask if you were aware that there's branches of psychology other than clinical but I glanced back at the summary and noted he was going into clinical psychology.

Also, I'm not sure why you're saying psychology isn't a science then start talking solely about supposed medical results. Geology is a science and it sure doesn't have good results for medicine.

Cognitive, developmental, abnormal, behavioral, and social psychology are all other branches of psychology which you might appreciate as more "sciencey" than clinical psychology.

Psychology has no clinical tests proving it is significantly better than medicine, talking to friends or nothing at all.

What? I'd like to see those papers on that since I've seen repeated studies that show that clinical psychology using cognitive behavioral methods have positive results. Five minutes in google scholar searching for "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Efficacy" found me results stating that CBT could be useful in helping to treat depression, schizophrenia, insomnia, and ptsd.

Re:Psychology is not science (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808310)

As medical doctors says here in Denmark, Psychology has no proven effect.

I really think someone ought to pass this valuable information along to all the medical establishments around the world that think it does.

Or, let me guess, it is all part of the worldwide communist-atheist-muslim-illuminati conspiracy to brainwash us and steal our souls.

Papers... (2, Insightful)

geogob (569250) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807444)

If you are aspiring for a PhD, you should already have a good grasp at researching papers and conference proceedings. Actually, should probably have already done that part... From these papers and conference proceedings, you can quickly identify those working in your field of interest and get a (partial) big picture of who's doing what where. Limiting you search to the last 36 months might be helpful.

This is obviously not a flawless method. It is time consuming and will only give you a partial picture (you'll probably not read every publication made in the last 3 years in all journals). You might also miss very interesting groups that publish in less known papers. That said, you have to choose wisely where you will focus your energy. Not working in your field, I can't help there, but as an aspiring PhD, you surly can find this information around you.

Peer contacts are also very helpful. PhD, post-docs and professors where you currently are are likely to have a good intuition on where to find this information, which papers to parse and, maybe, who to contact directly.

Forget about faculty websites. Forget about research grants (they are highly misleading).

Re:Papers... (2, Interesting)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807566)

If you are aspiring for a PhD, you should already have a good grasp at researching papers and conference proceedings. Actually, should probably have already done that part... From these papers and conference proceedings, you can quickly identify those working in your field of interest and get a (partial) big picture of who's doing what where. Limiting you search to the last 36 months might be helpful.

True story:

*ring* *ring*
PhD Applicant: Hello?
Dr. Z: Hey Applicant, I'm Dr. Z at one of the schools you applied to. Can we talk?
A: Sure.
Z: Ever thought about information retrieval?
A: Not really.
Z: What do you think when I say "information retrieval?"
A: "Search engines."
Z: Is that something you're interested in?
A: (I better say yes, if I want accepted into the university.) It could be interesting.
Z: Great!

Fast forward one year.

Z: Hey Former Applicant, there might be some money for you if you work shopping websites. Are you interested?
A: (I better say yes, if I want money.) I'll give it a try.

Fast forward four more years.

Z: Congratulations on your new PhD in shopping websites!
A: Thanks Dr. Z!

Did you guess who this applicant was? IT WAS ME! (FYI: I actually like my disertation topic.)

And you know what? That scene, or one very similar is played out all around the world every day. No one really their research topic, their advisor does it for them. Most applicants, don't know any current phd students outside of their TAs, and they don't even know them that well.

The best thing to do is a combination of picking some universities you like, and picking a conference (ideally, a top one, but you probably don't know which one is a top one) and then seeing who had papers there. That tells you what schools have labs in that field. Browse the faculty and grad student pages and see what's going on.

Pick 6 to 8 and apply.

Re:Papers... (1)

uid7306m (830787) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807690)

That's the American system. In British (and maybe Eurpoean?) universities, they expect you to have something closer to a project in mind when you apply.

Re:Papers... (1)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807848)

Of course no one applies saying, "I want a phd. I'll do anything." You say what you're interested in, but the fact is you rarely pick your advisor or your topic. It depends on who can take another student on, and who has money for what. Sure you can try and get an advisor to like you, and you can try an massage a topic into something you're more interested in, but it's still a lot like an arranged marriage. Which is to say, your phd career might not be exactly what you were expecting, but that doesn't mean you won't still be satisfied.

Meet in person (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807454)

I'm starting graduate school as a biology major this fall and I feel your pain. My suggestion is to network within your undergraduate institution. Ask your former professors where they went to grad school, perhaps they still have some connections. Also, if there are any professional conferences you can attend within your field of study, it would offer you a great opportunity to find out who is doing research in your area of interest and then making contact with that particular researcher.
    Also, meeting potential PIs in person will generally increase your chances of getting accepted to a particular PhD program, as opposed to making contact by just email or phone. Good luck!

(Maybe you better do a Masters first?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807456)

Literature search. Scholar + last 3 years (last year if you're in a high publishing field).

Good One (1)

VonSkippy (892467) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807464)

"saving countless aspiring grad students thousands of clicks through university websites."

Yeah, that's what professors live for, making their drudges (aka doc/post doc students) lives easier.

Shocking how poorly universities present info (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807466)

I recently realized that I have a professional mission: to build web-based information systems which expose structured, curated, metadata-rich information in easily searchable and browseable formats. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

What informs my mission is how many abysmally awful websites are still in existence presenting unstructured, unorganized, confusing, conflicting, outdated, or just plain misleading information.

I won't name the university that I've worked for; but it's a model of out-of-control bureaucracy and informational confusion. They have a gigantic information problem, which goes well beyond failing to provide/expose the kind of useful information that you're describing. That would be wonderfully useful. They're not even scratching the surface yet. And that's a pity.

Websites are treated as desktop publishing tasks. They're being handed to the secretaries, with minimal supervision. (Not picking on secretaries - just acknowledging the situation.)
It's gotten so bad that I now see it as positive if a website even bothers to make downloadable PDF's available. At least they're trying.

Re:Shocking how poorly universities present info (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808356)

I recently realized that I have a professional mission: to build web-based information systems which expose structured, curated, metadata-rich information in easily searchable and browseable formats. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?

If by "reasonable" you mean "composed almost entirely from marketing/management-speak bullshit", then yes.

A million dollar idea... (1)

Archeron (183599) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807470)

Until you posted it here that is and basement-dwellers everywhere scurried off to launch their own versions. Now a new problem... searching all the competing mentor finders. Now if only someone built a meta-search to search them all...

Re:A million dollar idea... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807530)

Until you posted it here that is and basement-dwellers everywhere scurried off to launch their own versions. Now a new problem... searching all the competing mentor finders. Now if only someone built a meta-search to search them all...

One web-ring to search them all, and in the darkness bind them.

There is such a thing as too much technology (2, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807472)

The whole world isn't neatly chunked into convenient web pages ready for Google or a wiki to make available. Sometimes you actually have to work, read, and research rather than relying on someone else to do the work for you and make it available.

This goes triply for someone who is ready to start PhD work and making 'original contributions to knowledge'.

If you aren't already familiar with the papers, journals, conferences, etc.. in your purported field of interest and who is regularly publishing, presenting, and being cited - you aren't ready to do PhD level work.

So you're saying that wasting time on fruitless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807524)

searches is just part of the process, so get used to it, kid? Perhaps that is true currently; but what a waste of valuable time that represents.

Can you imagine a world where the process of research is streamlined using *existing* information science technologies to greatly accelerate scholarly research?

I've already built systems like that. And they're wonderful.

Re:There is such a thing as too much technology (1)

Protonk (599901) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807526)

Meh. That really depends on the person, the field and the program. I know there are plenty of fields which expect first year PhDs to have a research plan plotted out for the next 5 ish years, but there are more which want them to get through methods courses and comprehensive exams first. The structure of graduate work (in the states at least) is designed to force students to be researchers, not to exclude students who are not already researchers.

Corporate Identity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807494)

The reason these things are buried is the new corporate design shiny website mania. Often the research groups have their own website with really useful information hidden on some badly linked server, while the university website's responsibles want to have shiny pictures of happy black people that have discovered the cure for cancer in hyped press releases, and put corporate design issues before usability.

Journal articles, a library, and your professors (4, Informative)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807544)

At Ph.D. prep level you should be reading research papers/journal articles to work out who's doing interesting work. You should also have networked in your undergrad and formed connections to people who can provide you with interesting opportunities in exchange for your hard work.

You certainly should not be dreaming of searchable dataases, trawling university web sites or posting to ask slashdot. That you are doing this does not bode well for your ability to complete a Ph.D.

By the way, I have no idea about psychology but preprint articles in Physics and Astronomy can be found on the net at arxiv.org. Since the journals tend to try to restrict publication for their own profits these days (espeically in medical sciences), you may need to find a library or University that you can access that has research papers for your own field. Either way if you're not interested enough to read current research articles to determine who's doing interesting work, perhaps you should be thinking about something other than a doctorate.

Re:Journal articles, a library, and your professor (1)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808172)

You certainly should not be dreaming of searchable dataases, trawling university web sites or posting to ask slashdot. That you are doing this does not bode well for your ability to complete a Ph.D.

It bodes perfectly well. Undertaking PhD studies is about learning how to do research, it's not about already knowing how to do everything the right way and then just doing that for three years. If you look at the responses that are coming in this thread, asking Slashdot was the best possible thing he could do and it'll have helped every other person looking to get into a PhD program who comes here from Google in future as well.

Re:Journal articles, a library, and your professor (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808270)

Yeah, I'd say that at least in the American system (the European system is somewhat different), a typical PhD takes 5-6 years, and is segmented something like: 2-3 years of figuring out wtf is going on, and 3-4 years of doing a thesis.

Re:Journal articles, a library, and your professor (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809564)

It bodes perfectly well. Undertaking PhD studies is about learning how to do research, it's not about already knowing how to do everything the right way and then just doing that for three years. If you look at the responses that are coming in this thread, asking Slashdot was the best possible thing he could do and it'll have helped every other person looking to get into a PhD program who comes here from Google in future as well.

I have no idea what your education background is like but if you really think asking here is a good idea, I don't know what to say. I did a masters and while it was about learning how to do research you were expected to get off your backside and make contacts and read papers. And you weren't expected to take 3 years learning to do it.

Re:Journal articles, a library, and your professor (1)

langelgjm (860756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808896)

At Ph.D. prep level you should be reading research papers/journal articles to work out who's doing interesting work. You should also have networked in your undergrad and formed connections to people who can provide you with interesting opportunities in exchange for your hard work.

I'll second this. When I was figuring out where to apply for my Ph.D., I knew what I was interested in, and for a while I did browse the faculty lists of top schools just to see if there was anyone there interested in similar things. My interest is kind of an oddity in the field, and I didn't have much success finding anyone.

They way I ended up finding my school (i.e., faculty member) was when doing research for a paper. Course instructor recommended that I read so-and-so, because she is a professor in my field working on the topic. Later, course instructor introduced me to her at a conference. I read a few of her articles, bought some of her books, decided that would work for me.

Another thing I would stress is to make sure your faculty member is tenured and not planning on leaving for another school... or if they're not tenured, that you have more than one person you'd like to work with. It will suck if you go expecting to work with one person, only to find out a year later that they're no longer going to be teaching at the school.

Re:Journal articles, a library, and your professor (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809456)

You certainly should not be dreaming of searchable dataases, trawling university web sites or posting to ask slashdot. That you are doing this does not bode well for your ability to complete a Ph.D.

I think that's overly pessimistic. I think lots of generally capable students just don't get proper direction regarding how to navigate this phase of their academic careers. At the very worst, the OP maybe should pursue a master's degree as a way of getting more familiar with current research projects and their PIs, and to get more familiar with reading and critiquing research papers.

Maybe this is premature? (2, Insightful)

DrVomact (726065) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807632)

While it's entirely possible that your knowledge of the field in which you hope to obtain a doctorate is mature enough that you should be asking this kind of question, the fact that you have to ask it at all makes me think that this isn't so. Doctoral research and theses usually explore an extremely narrow topic within a much broader discipline. If your interests are so developed that you already know the subject of your doctoral thesis, then how could you have acquired the necessary knowledge of the field without working with relevant scholars—or at least reading their work? Had you done that, you would know exactly who your mentor should be. But then that would mean that you had already done what you are supposed to spend your first couple of years of graduate study doing: learning about the field that you have chosen to specialize in, and identifying a particular interest that you wish to pursue in a thesis.

In my experience, at least, graduate students usually spend the time allotted to the coursework portion of their Ph.D. curriculum gaining facility with the intellectual tools required by their chosen field, learning about this field in general, and most importantly, building relationships with teachers who might further their academic progress. Unless you are a very extraordinary and brilliant student, the normal procedure is not to find a mentor, and then enroll at the university where he is employed. Instead, you identify several universities where you think the interests of the faculty are reasonably compatible with your interests, and apply for admission. Once you are admitted, you work hard, and try to find a teacher with which you "click". Then you talk that teacher into sponsoring you as your dissertation adviser. If that happens, then all you have to do (in addition to the actual doctoral work) is put together a committee of faculty that get along with each other well enough that they can approve your dissertation without tearing each other's throats out in the process. (You have not seen vicious "office politics" until you have had to do with the academic version.)

Yes, of course you can better the odds in your favor. Find some papers you like, and write to the authors about how great their paper is. Tell them you're interested in pursuing graduate study at their institution, and see if you can get a reply. Don't be too forward; they don't know you at this stage, and are not likely to commit themselves to being your "mentor". The best you can hope for is a foot in the door, instead of a door in the face. Good luck!

Research Interests don't make good advisors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807698)

In my opinion as a grad student in physics, no webpage, journal article or paper will get you to your advisor. I have studied under professor whose research interests were directly in line with mine and I would never do a PhD program under them. I couldn't work with them for years due to personality clashes. Similarly, I have read and done work under professors who are very good, spark my interests in physics further etc but were not in my field of interests.

Keep in mind your PhD advisor will be your advisor for the next 4 years (or however long it is in the social sciences...) Nothing beats face time and having someone you can talk to. (Okay, I admit your advisor won't be there when you actually need him but...you get the point.)

Thats what conferences, topical meetings, nights out at the pub etc. are for

Best of luck.

You need good advisor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807714)

First of all, know your field. Second, why you look for someone who shares your exact research interest? It's dumb to look for someone who simply knows more than you about specific topics which you may be interested in. If you're doing a PhD, *you* are going to teach *them*. So ease off.

Your main goal is to find a good advisor, not someone with identical interests. A good advisor will help you do what you want to do, assuming they can. So your interests and theirs should merely be compatible, not identical.

You need a basic understanding of your field to begin. Read recent papers and look for good papers. Broadly follow many topics, adding more over time, starting now. You need to choose schools first, so figure out which ones have a few potential candidates. Then email some and ask if they're interested in a new student, and if so, call them on the telephone to talk. If they're indifferent, ask if they can suggest someone else who might be interested. This is a very personal choice, so you need to be personal and try to get to know people in the very limited time that you have.

Before you commit to a school, you should go there in person and meet if possible. It may not be possible, but try. You should also try to contact former students. Don't ask "was professor X any good?", ask "what was he like?".

Cat got your tongue? (something important seems to (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807816)

Asking slashdot, just as bad as advice from 4chan

There are databases (1)

oznog (837101) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807880)

Try cos.com, it has an expertise database

go47 (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807888)

baby...Don't fear

Counting Psychologists on Toesies (2, Insightful)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807944)

Although more than half of all psychologists are clinical, the following explains why it's hard to find them:

                * 65 percent worked in independent practices (46 percent in individual private practices and 19 percent in group private practices)
                * 14 percent worked in hospitals
                * Five percent worked in clinics
                * Three percent worked in elementary / secondary schools
                * Two percent or less worked in other settings, such as university counseling centers, criminal justice systems, rehabilitation facilities or other human service settings

Clinical is a treatment oriented field, not a research oriented. Other fields develop the tools that the clinicians use to fix b0rken br@nes. For instance, ADD is attentional, which is a subfield of cognitive psychology. They do research in order to uncover the underlying processes. To treat it with drugs requires research in psychopharmacology. To measure it requires training in methodology and imaging technology such as electrophysiology. You can work in any of those fields and contribute some meaningful work for clinicians to use, and that's just one example from the pages of the DSM.

You can go for a PhD in neuroscience and get training on many of the subfields. This probably opens up more doors than any other branch.

Most PsyD programs are clinical in nature. A n exception is (was?) the consortium to which Eastern Virginia Medical School belongs. It was intended to be research oriented, and at least was.

Clinicians are the ones who make the big bucks treating people. That would be the reason to stay in that field. If you intend to do research you're going to get paid about the same no matter what you're called, but researchers doing hiring assume clinicians are treatment oriented which is for the most part true, and so less likely to take you on in a research slot.

If you want to do research don't go looking at clinical programs (or at a particular location for that matter) and then for people within them. Go looking for people who are doing work you find exciting and go work for one of them regardless of what the program is called, even something other than psychology. Or go looking
at the research that interests you and then the people doing it and then the other stuff

I went the neuroscience route although there wasn't a neuroscience program in place there, only a 'psychological sciences' subfield that covered a lot of ground, and only the clinicians' dissertation said anything other than 'psychology (something or other focus)'. But we put together a program that required a chemistry professor on my committee. When they saw what I'd done in training, I was offered and walked into a job at NIH (non-competitive, just invited) and then Yale (same).

  If you try to stick with clinical, when time comes to get a job they'll take one look, see 'clinical' and expect you to fill a slot that requires licensing as well as serving as a clinician where ever you're at. And that means a lot of face-to-face and a lot less research.

Still, Virginia Tech's clinical program requires a research project on par with the practicum in terms of effort and knowledge required. Something like that would help prepare you for doing research but wouldn't fix the problems about others' assumptions.

Most beginning psychology undergrads answer these two question thusly:
What kind of psychologist do you want to be?
Clinical.
Why?
To help people.
Somewhere between then and dissertation, almost half decide otherwise.
You think it's time to consider this?

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe." [And some things that I was the first to see, ever.] "Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tanhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain." I've seen dopamine based synchronization in the gamma band within 20 msec post stimulus. I've looked at early auditory processing and could account for every single deflection correlating with each synapse involved. I've seen severed spinal cords regrown, and seen something that can prevent 2/3 of Parkinson's cases come from tobacco. Time to decide.

That's easy. (1)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807948)

Register ment*rb**k.c*m (*o) Install appropriate Web CMS / Community system.
Ads won't rake in the cash, but I'd presume some specialised service like target classifieds for companies looking for experts or some Thesis Printing Service or something like that might cut it. Definitely worth a try.

Congratulations. You've just got yourself a brand new niche market web venue.
Good luck. Drop us a line when your sipping Pina Coladas somewhere on the Bahamas after your sell-out. :-)

Since you asked ... (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808464)

"when your sipping" should be, "when you're sipping". I understand how a non-native speaker could make this mistake -- it's common among native speakers. I sometimes think that it's so common that corrections are futile, and I wonder how, with so many incorrect examples about, a non-native speaker could learn the language correctly at all. My compliments. (Not complements, by the way, which are something else entirely :-).)

And yes, your English is better than my German.

Scientologists? (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807952)

Did slashdot gets scientologists or other cranks to mark this as "itsnotscience" because he brings up psychology?

Either slashdot is growing a scientologist population, or people here don't know what constitutes a science.

Don't listen to grad students (well except me) (5, Insightful)

negro_monolito (1172543) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807978)

Disclaimer: I am a current PhD grad in EE. Your field might be different, YMMV, etc.

Many people on this site will say research the latest papers or even insult you for asking a question regarding the best way to find a research mentor. Sorry about that, grad students can be ... curt at times. I'll try to answer your questions and provide some insight.

"Is this a common problem across all fields? Is there some ... this need?"

Sadly, this seems to be a problem in EE too (though I can't say much about other fields). The main reason for this problem is human laziness. Once a student goes through all the trouble to find a decent grad program to enroll to, there seems little reason to document this one-time affair. When I was in a similar situation as yours, I too thought of making a wiki type site where all my experience could be indexed and searchable by other students. However, I quickly became aware that this is pointless. First, PhD research tends to be VERY VERY specific so information useful for me has little value to others. Second, field specific information changes very rapidly so any program catalog would need constant updates or become useless in a matter of months. Third, people are lazy. Once you do through the process of choosing a program you have very little incentive to stream-line it. You will almost likely never encounter the problem again ... so why optimize.

But all is not lost, here are a few tips:

1. Don't listen to people telling you to read the all the latest research in your field. You will likely not understand it. That's not meant as an insult at all. While you might know the field you are interested (clinical psychology) you likely don't know any of the specific terms to do a thorough analysis. It would be like me telling a 3rd year EE undergrad interested in signals that they should read an IEEE transaction journal on motion compensated temporal filter DWT lifting algorithm, and somehow be able to understand it and contact the author regarding their research. It's unrealistic and probably does more harm than good (you might get depressed at how little you actually know).

If you are to read anything, read a light survey paper about clinical psychology to get acquianted with the terms. Then search for schools that do that. I.e. if pre-natal clinical psychology interests you (I have no idea if that's an actual field) then maybe UCLA does good work in it.

2. Talk. Perhaps your best source of information is a professor in your current school. Ask him/her what schools they would recommend for PhD work. You might be surprised at the answer, often they will recommend other schools and be able to tell you the good/bad. Also, be sure to ask what school they went to (it's usually on the department website anyways). Just make sure to ask more than a single professor's opinion, you don't want to be prejudiced by one guy's pet research project or arch-nemesis grant competitor (yeah, sadly some profs are like that).

3. Once you find a good school, check the department website and find a professor who does interesting work. Just call him and ask him about his research (professors ALWAYS like to talk about their research ... unlike some grads). Chances are you won't understand 90% of what the guy says, but you will get somewhat of a feel whether you can work with him for the next 2-3 years. Go ahead and call all profs in that research area ... you will learn just by talking over the phone who is reasonable and intelligent and who might be just a tad crazy.

Which brings me to the most important part ... make sure you find a mentor you can work with for at least 2-3 years. There is no point in trying to work with a genius if he's a jerk ... you won't get anywhere and your research (if any) will suffer. And if you don't find that one star research mentor, that's okay too (maybe he is still doing his postdoc). Just find a school where the faculty in your area does good work and the majority of the professors are people that you would highly consider working with, your prospective research mentor would 'gravitate' that way anways.

That said, once you start grad school, you will have a couple of years to weed out a good mentor while you do fundamental grad classes.

Re:Don't listen to grad students (well except me) (1)

dominious (1077089) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808326)

Did anyone read the tips of this post with this tempo in their head: Sunscreen Song [youtube.com]

Re:Don't listen to grad students (well except me) (3, Insightful)

six11 (579) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809762)

I was going to post something very similar to this. Yes, this thread is full of nasty naysayers insulting the original poster for asking a basic question. Just ignore them. The parent speaks the truth.

Two things that I want to stress: First, if you end up getting advice from profs, do it in person. They will be much more willing to give you honest opinions when you're in the room, and it will be interactive so you can have an actual dialog. Keep the email exchanges to a minimum.

Second: getting a PhD takes a long, long time. The parent poster mentions finding mentor that you can work with for 2--3 years---that is IMHO quite an optimistic view. Even if you've finished your quals/comps/whatever and are a bonafide Candidate, it still might take 4--5 years to finish. Be sure to get involved with a _group_ of some sort, such as a lab or a center. Having a variety of people around is indispensable. I have found this out the hard way. If you end up having bad mojo with one person, even if it is your advisor, you should give yourself the option of switching (though that can have political implications as well, so that's a situational call, and switching should be a last resort.)

Anyway, good luck.

Because internet is for porn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32807994)

Not for stupid shit like research.

A few things (2, Insightful)

Krahar (1655029) | more than 4 years ago | (#32807998)

It seems like a text-searchable database could be built fairly quickly and maintained by users, saving countless aspiring grad students thousands of clicks through university websites.

Saving the time of graduate students is a non-priority in academia. On the contrary, standing jokes revolve around how other people can waste the time of graduate students in order to save some of their own time. How aggressive a form of this you will meet depends entirely on the culture in the subfield you will be doing research in and on your particular adviser. There are too many graduate students and people looking to be graduate students in comparison to how many permanent jobs there are in the field for people with a PhD (in most fields). So most graduate student's aren't going to stick around in the field after graduation and so it doesn't make sense for people to engage as readily with graduate student's as they do with graduates - though lots of people still do. At the same time every adviser is always looking for exceptionally talented and motivated students, and if you can make a concise and convincing case that you are both of those things, then that makes your life easier.

You would ideally want to have some idea what kind of a human being a given adviser is, though this can be hard with just email. You are going to be stuck with this person having some sort of power over you for three or more years. They will be writing your recommendations for years to come. You want the variety with a positive outlook and some kind of interest in and ability for creating a good environment for their students. You don't want the variety whose main concern is how to turn his or her students into papers that bear the adviser's name.

There is also a question of how independent you are and want to be. Some advisers will simply tell you to go read papers and do something great, which is exactly what you want if you want to be independent. You might be looking to have a lot more guidance than that, in which case there are other advisers who will want to be very involved - though this usually requires that what you do is very similar to what the adviser does. The social skills of people in academia also vary widely, and you can end up with some very blunt and abrasive people, just as you can end up with the kind of people who would just die if they thought they had offended you in any way.

The problem here is that there are lots of people looking to be graduate students, so most advisers are not going to be very interested in engaging in a discussion with you about whether or not they are abrasive people just looking to exploit their students. One way to get some idea about someone who looks promising is to ask that person's former students what they thought of their experience with him as their adviser. People ask advisers for evaluations of their former students all the time (just one more reason to choose well), it's only fair that their former students get asked to evaluate them as well. Don't expect anyone to bad-mouth their former adviser, but you can probably read between the lines if there is a big problem.

To maintain your motivation during your studies, and to perhaps present a better case to an advisor, it also pays off to think about what you might like to do after you graduate. Have a glimpse at offers for post docs right now to see if that sounds at all interesting to you - it's the next step if you are going to stay in academia. You might also look at jobs in industry that might be suited to what you want to do. It's not too important what you think seems good right now, what is important is the activities you have to engage in to be able to have an idea of what seems good, such as looking at job offers. Then it's something you will have in mind so you don't stand there with your thesis in hand three years from now, and then go "oh wait, now I need a job too. I wish I'd started looking for that two years ago." It may also help you to have a more informed opinion about whether studying for a PhD is really what you want to do.

Go by area of interest (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808008)

When considering grad school, the most important thing is studying under a professor that is doing research you are interested in--that research will also be your research area. You should already have some topics you are interested in, maybe you have a general interest, if you're not sure, flip through some textbooks for topics that you find interesting and then search through the relevant databases (i.e., PsychInfo for Psychology) for research done on that topic. You'll likely find even more narrow focuses on things related to that topic while doing so, and you'll start to see a repeat of names of certain professors studying a specific topic. You can then look up the work by the professor and see if your interests match (hopefully, of course, they aren't foreigners). Make a list, get to know the topics you are interested in and the research they are doing before you apply.

Re:Go by area of interest (1)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808018)

BTW, Since you don't tell us your research interests, there's not much more we can help you with.

poor question. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32808222)

if you have to ask then you should stop aspiring.

Re:poor question. (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808402)

Thank you, Dr. Sheldon Cooper.

This is why people publish. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32808566)

There are things called "journal articles", grasshopper.

You will need to use a search engine besides google, although I hear some such exist.

When you have journeyed long and know yourself well enough, you can place your true desires in the portal found, sort them so the dates lightest with history rise to the top, and you will see written the scribes of the Authors.

They too may call you grasshopper, but it is a start.

Obligatory... question (1)

xtracto (837672) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808568)

Are you sure [phdcomics.com] you want to do a Phd?

Try citation databases... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32808764)

Citation databases normally provide text and keyword-based searches which should allow you to narrow down to who the top published researcher are within your areas of interest. At that point, you can start to see where they're located and reach out to them directly.

Best of luck.

Can't you just use your PsychoTelepathy? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#32808844)

And if that's not what psychology is about, then what bloody use is it? Apparently what it doesn't produce are any research publications with authors' names on them - if it did, then the answer to your question would be blindingly obvious to anyone with an ounce of common sense or the merest shred of native intelligence, wouldn't it?

Welcome (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32808916)

to research

I found mine on Gumtree! (1)

jimwormold (1451913) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809002)

Seriously... it's amazing what you can find on there. We met up, got on, had similar interests and the rest is history. So just keep on looking, and make sure you meet your mentor/supervisor and see if you click. If you don't, forget about doing a PhD with them - you need all the help you can get.

Choose a great supervisor, not great research (4, Insightful)

Samuar (829173) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809282)

As a current UK PhD student nearing the end of my three years, in my opinion you're looking for the wrong thing. Everyone will tell you that you need to be very passionate about your research and that it is the key to success. However, I don't feel that its true. The relationship between the student and supervisor is the most important aspect. If you don't have a good relationship, you will fail. So you should look for a supervisor that you can trust, who has the important qualities and skills (e.g. good communicator) and is willing to make time for you. You want a supervisor who is not happy with the way your current institution teaches its students, but instead is constantly evaluating him or herself to better the way they provide such an education. You don't want someone who will get lost in their own research, or is too busy as a Professor to see you often enough. I think the only way you will know who would work well with you is by comparing the lecturers who taught you for your undergraduate degree. Which ones were happy to provide assistance (e.g. timely, polite responses to your emails?) Which ones made the effort in lectures to aid your understanding by providing voice recordings of their lectures if you missed them, or mind-maps for each lecture, or turned up 15 minutes early if you had any problems? I chose this individual over a particular research topic. Obviously, the down side is that for three years I've been stuck researching artificial neural networks - which may or may not be my first choice. But I don't think I would be 3 months away from finishing if I was being supervised by any other member of staff in my department. Once you have the PhD, you are free to research what ever you like.

Re:Choose a great supervisor, not great research (1)

Meneguzzi (935620) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809720)

Please mod this guy up, if I had the mod points I'd do it, this is the most insightful piece of advice one can write. The research should be easy for you to grasp (if not, you are not going to the right area), but in finding a good supervisor lies the "art" of a successful PhD.

academia.edu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32809300)

You could try http://www.academia.edu/
It's a social networking site for academics and lists research interests and so on

Disciplined minds, other suggestions (0)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809518)

First, check out: http://www.disciplined-minds.com/ [disciplined-minds.com] "Disciplined Minds: A Critical Look at Salaried Professionals and the Soul-battering System That Shapes Their Lives"
"""
Who are you going to be? That is the question.
    In this riveting book about the world of professional work, Jeff Schmidt demonstrates that the workplace is a battleground for the very identity of the individual, as is graduate school, where professionals are trained. He shows that professional work is inherently political, and that professionals are hired to subordinate their own vision and maintain strict "ideological discipline."
    The hidden root of much career dissatisfaction, argues Schmidt, is the professional's lack of control over the political component of his or her creative work. Many professionals set out to make a contribution to society and add meaning to their lives. Yet our system of professional education and employment abusively inculcates an acceptance of politically subordinate roles in which professionals typically do not make a significant difference, undermining the creative potential of individuals, organizations and even democracy.
    Schmidt details the battle one must fight to be an independent thinker and to pursue one's own social vision in today's corporate society. He shows how an honest reassessment of what it really means to be a professional employee can be remarkably liberating. After reading this brutally frank book, no one who works for a living will ever think the same way about his or her job.
"""

Some very interesting psychologists; maybe look up some of their students?
    http://www.ted.com/talks/philip_zimbardo_prescribes_a_healthy_take_on_time.html [ted.com]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Seligman#Positive_psychology [wikipedia.org]

By a practicing psychiatrists on how vitamin D is related to much mental illness:
    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/treatment.shtml [vitamindcouncil.org]

By others on the psychological aspect of our society, personal troubles in it, and its infrastructure:
    "Surviving America's Depression Epidemic: How to Find Morale, Energy, and Community in a World Gone Crazy" by Bruce E. Levine
        http://books.google.com/books?id=bCuC2H-6k_8C [google.com]
    "Dark Nights of the Soul: A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life's Ordeals" by Thomas Moore
        http://books.google.com/books?id=RKZreNYKNHQC [google.com]
    "About the AARP/Bluezones Vitality Project"
    http://www.bluezones.com/makeover-about [bluezones.com]

On how improved nutrition will make people healthier and happier:
    http://www.drfuhrman.com/ [drfuhrman.com]
And holistic aspects of health and diet too:
    http://www.drweil.com/ [drweil.com]

VIVO Web (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | more than 4 years ago | (#32809550)

http://www.vivoweb.org/ [vivoweb.org] "The national network of scientists will facilitate the discovery of researchers and collaborators across the country. Institutions will participate in the network by installing VIVO, or by providing semantic web-compliant data to the network."

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