Hellwig’s Tips for Grad Students


  • Adding an original component to a dissertation will help you stand out in the crowd. Whether it’s conducting an extra experiment or conducting field work, demonstrating individual data collection can be important.
  • Make the last chapter of your dissertation a launching pad for future research. With time and financial constraints, graduate students are limited in the type of data they can use or collect for a dissertation. In the last chapter, outline in a perfect world what type of measure you would use or data you would need to collect. During the dissertation defense, spend time getting feedback from committee members on your ideas for your ideas for future research because this chapter could be the starting point for a future grant application, etc.
  • When choosing committee members, there are a couple of routes. If there are professors whose research interests overlap with yours, that’s an obvious match. If you find yourself in a department with limited shared interest, think about how/which professors can contribute to different aspects of your dissertation. Maybe you choose a person who would have something to say about the second chapter or a person who is an expert on the methodology you use. A good way to pursue this committee relationship is to take a course from a potential committee member. This allows you to better understand their work and how it can inform yours and also forces them to read your work. When utilizing committee members outside of the department or those with whom you are not familiar, give specific instructions. e.g. I would like you to really pay attention to this aspect, etc.
  • When writing your prospectus, be clear and concise. Do not assume your committee members understand your subject area. Clearly lay out the research question, methods, data source, hypotheses, etc. Don’t worry about being creative.
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2 Responses to Hellwig’s Tips for Grad Students

  1. Jake Wobig says:

    Here’s what I had in my notes:

    He divides grad school into two parts: pre-comps and post-comps. Pre-comps, you’re reading lots of class-assigned material which you may not be interested in. However, don’t just read it because you have to; pay close attention to the research design of each thing you read because you can learn alot of valuable things that way. Also, pre-comps, write as many seminar papers as you can. Seminar papers serve as the basis of conference papers, can help you ID fields you are interested in (or uninterested in) and can provide faculty with some of their strongest impressions of you, which is of obvious importance.

    Post-comps, he believes that your first priority should be putting together your prospectus. There will be a temptation to publish articles on lots of ancillary issues, but this will slow you down (which is bad in itself and looks bad to search committees). Prospectus first, then publish other stuff. And make a timeline for completing each component of your prospectus.

    I’d also add that he said fieldwork really sets you apart in Comparative.

  2. Jake Wobig says:

    I should have said “here’s what I had in my notes that Amanda didn’t already mention”

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