No doubt about it, the Internet has made graduate-student life easier. But even if eBay book auctions are helping you to cover those student loans, that doesn't mean everything you need is on a Web site. Students can take advantage of a plethora of real-world resources to enrich their research. Here are a few suggestions:
Go to the library. When you're starting a new research project, don't just Google and hope for the best, says Mary Chaikin, the psychology librarian at Princeton University. Ask your school's librarians how to begin your search. Even if your university doesn't have a facility dedicated to psychology, the general librarians are trained on the ins and outs of each database and can assist you with your research. Some librarians, including Chaikin, even offer workshops on using professional databases such as PsycINFO or PsycARTICLES.
Students who rely too much on Google and other search engines don't always find all of the relevant research on their topic, especially cutting-edge findings that have not yet appeared online. Professional databases include journals and books that may not be fully searchable with standard search engines or even specialized engines such as Google Scholar.
Read paper journals.Being a budding professional means keeping up with all of the latest news in your field. Searching databases for specific articles may help you write a paper, but reading academic journals regularly guarantees that you'll have the background knowledge when a professor gives you an assignment outside your area of expertise. Heidi Dodson, the librarian for life sciences at the University of Virginia, notes that the contents of some journals are not yet fully digitized. By reading regularly, you may stumble upon an article that gives you a new idea or a different perspective for your dissertation.
The American Psychologist (AP) will help you keep track of developments across the field of psychology. (APA members, including graduate student affiliates, receive AP as part of their membership fee.) You can also peruse journals in your specialty area. Visit a listing of academic journals such as the one at the World Wide Web Virtual Library or APA's psychology journal page to find journals in your field, and then page through them at the library, or subscribe to one or two.
Speak with your professors in person. E-mails are perfect for asking simple questions or arranging meetings, but they only serve as a starting point for more in-depth brainstorming, says Jonathan Baron, PhD, the psychology department's director of graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Students who rarely see their professors in person don't develop the deeper relationships they need to succeed. Those who know you well can offer detailed research advice, connect you with their colleagues when you're job searching and are more likely to craft a glowing recommendation letter. Make appointments to meet your professors outside of class to discuss your work, suggests Baron, and take advantage of opportunities to work with them as a research or teaching assistant. Finally, if they invite you out to dinner--go! It will help your career if your professors see you as a person as well as a colleague.
Talk to your classmates. Fellow students can provide valuable perspectives on your research. Get together for reading groups or even happy hours to bounce ideas off your peers, says S. Joseph Levine, PhD, a communications professor at Michigan State University in his online guide, "Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Dissertation". Levine notes that other students can help you to answer questions such as, "Are there aspects of your research that...need further explanation?"
Attend conferences. Workshops and sessions at regional conferences and specialty-area meetings can lead to new ideas for your research projects and offer opportunities for networking beyond your university, says Rachel Prager, a graduate student at Georgetown University. Conference presenters get even more out of meetings, as they get input on their research from other attendees.
Ask your professors what conferences they recommend, or visit APA Conferences for information on APA conferences. Conference Alerts also provides listings of upcoming psychology conferences.
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