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The Scholar's Survival Manual: A Road Map for Students, Faculty, and Administrators
     

The Scholar's Survival Manual: A Road Map for Students, Faculty, and Administrators

by Martin H. Krieger
 

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The product of a lifetime of experience in American universities, The Scholar’s Survival Manual offers advice for students, professors, and administrators on how to get work done, the path to becoming a professor, getting tenured, and making visible contributions to scholarship, as well as serving on promotion and tenure committees. Martin H. Krieger covers a

Overview

The product of a lifetime of experience in American universities, The Scholar’s Survival Manual offers advice for students, professors, and administrators on how to get work done, the path to becoming a professor, getting tenured, and making visible contributions to scholarship, as well as serving on promotion and tenure committees. Martin H. Krieger covers a broad cross section of the academic experience from a graduate student's first foray into the job market through retirement. Because advice is notoriously difficult to take and context matters a great deal, Krieger has allowed his ideas to percolate through dozens of discussions. Some of the advice is instrumental, matters of expediency; some demands our highest aspirations. Readers may open the book at any place and begin reading; for the more systematic there is a detailed table of contents. Krieger’s tone is direct, an approach born of the knowledge that students and professors too often ignore suggestions that would have prevented them from becoming academic roadkill. This essential book will help readers sidestep a similar fate.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Scholar's Survival Manual is packed full of useful advice that applies to every stage in the academic life cycle. From applying to graduate school and writing dissertations to seeking jobs and coming up for tenure, then mentoring others, here are the tricks of the trade. All scholars can benefit from the chapters on writing and on academic ethos. The perfect gift for those who wonder how the academy works." —Estelle B. Freedman, Stanford University, author of No Turning Back and Redefining Rape

"Krieger certainly knows his way around the halls of academia. Pulling content from his blog on this topic, he counsels everyone from graduate students to untenured and tenured faculty to university administrators on how to navigate their scholarly aspirations. The tone is inviting and intimate.... Anyone interested in or connected to the world of academic scholarship will discover here solid, considered, and instructive strategies to walking those hallowed hallways." —Library Journal

sciencemag.org

"Krieger has compiled many of his blog posts into an astute handbook that would make a perfect gift for the academics on your list—from grad student to department chair—or even for yourself." —sciencemag.org

John Gaber

"Original and insightful... Krieger provides a very demystifying account of how the university professoriat works and practical advice on how academics can successfully navigate through their university tenure and promotion process." —John Gaber, University of Arkansas

Sherry Turkle

"I remember with fondness the advice Martin Krieger gave me when I was writing The Second Self and my tenure case was soon to come up. He said, 'Write every day, you can always revise later.' Krieger is an ally who keeps pragmatism and scholarly aspiration in his sights. Only that strategy will help you have the career of your dreams." —Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology
MIT

Moshe Sluhovsky

"Based on 40 years of teaching, 15 of sitting on university tenure and promotion committees, and blogging on these issues for more than 15 years, Krieger's insights are smart, friendly, and presented in the most disarming manner. They are for PhD students and junior faculty in all fields, from applied sciences and mathematics to the humanities." —Moshe Sluhovsky, Professor of History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Marie-Hélène Huet

"Martin Krieger has written a wise, lucid, and comprehensive guide to the complex demands of academic careers in the 21st century. The Scholar’s Survival Manual is indispensable reading for graduate students and faculty in all fields." —Marie-Hélène Huet, M. Taylor Pyne Professor of French and Italian, Princeton University

Estelle B. Freedman

"The Scholar's Survival Manual is packed full of useful advice that applies to every stage in the academic life cycle. From applying to graduate school and writing dissertations to seeking jobs and coming up for tenure, then mentoring others, here are the tricks of the trade. All scholars can benefit from the chapters on writing and on academic ethos. The perfect gift for those who wonder how the academy works." —Estelle B. Freedman, Stanford University, author of No Turning Back and Redefining Rape

John Forester

"Martin Krieger has a reputation for straight talk, practical advice, iconoclasm, and more; every academic writer should be curious about this provocative book. It's sensitive and astute and calm and friendly in all the best and most constructive critical senses." —John Forester, Professor of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University

Library Journal
09/15/2013
Krieger (planning, Univ. of Southern California; Doing Physics) certainly knows his way around the halls of academia. Pulling content from his blog on this topic (scholarssurvival.blogspot.com), he counsels everyone from graduate students to untenured and tenured faculty to university administrators on how to navigate their scholarly aspirations. In his role as the kindly, seasoned colleague who has his readers' best interests at heart, he urges them "to do the right thing the first time." Eschewing a linear format, Krieger encourages readers to dip in anywhere rather than start at the beginning. The book functions as a guide to careers in academia and perpetuates his online presence with its short, pithy posts presented in an informal style. The tone is inviting and intimate. Instead of empirical evidence, many of the anecdotes come from firsthand knowledge acquired over a lifetime. Works such as Wayne C. Booth's The Craft of Research, James H. McMillan's Educational Research, and Kjell Erik Rudestam and Rae R. Newton's Surviving Your Dissertation offer more structure and comprehensive direction. VERDICT Anyone interested in or connected to the world of academic scholarship will discover here solid, considered, and instructive strategies to walking those hallowed hallways.—Jacqueline Snider, Iowa City

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780253010551
Publisher:
Indiana University Press
Publication date:
10/23/2013
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Scholar's Survival Manual

A Road Map for Students, Faculty, and Administrators


By Martin H. Krieger

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2013 Martin H. Krieger
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-01071-1



CHAPTER 1

Graduate School (#1–54)


A. FUNDAMENTALS

1"I Can Do That!"

Hans Bethe (1906–2005) was a Nobel Prize–winning physicist known for his capacity to solve problems, moving through them much as would an armored tank. He was conservative and cautious in choosing problems and areas in which to work. He recognized his strengths and his limitations. And he believed that the empirical data and the theory must be ready, so that he might be able to make a contribution. And then he would say to himself, "I can do that!" and go about doing his work. (S. S. Schweber, Nuclear Forces: The Making of the Physicist Hans Bethe, 2012)

Few of us have talents in our fields comparable to Bethe's (as did few physicists). But his philosophy might well apply to many of us as we choose areas to work within. There are other models of productive scholars, and our task is to find one that works for us.


2What Is Graduate Education for?

Graduate education at a university is only partly about taking courses, mastering their contents, and doing projects and passing exams. What's important, what is unique and distinctive, what you are paying for in the end, is the fact that the university is now based on research, done by its faculty or by scholars and scientists elsewhere. This means that your teachers are at the forefront of investigations of how the world works, of ideas about literature, art, and society, and of the practice of the professions. Watching your professors in action, interacting with them, asking them your particular questions, working with them on their projects, having them supervise your research and mentor you – this is what makes the real difference. Moreover, the university offers a very wide range of seminars and lectures concerned with your fields of interest. Depending on the stage of your career and whether you are doing a professional masters or a doctoral degree, you might expect yourself to attend anywhere from one to three seminars each week. The questions from the audience are crucial, and you will be able to ask questions if you listen and prepare.

Moreover, there are journals to read, books you want to look at, other courses you might sit in on. Graduate education is a full-time activity, if you want to benefit from it in the deepest sense. Many students have other obligations: full- and part-time jobs, bringing up a family. Still, pack it in, and build up your intellectual assets so they serve you for the rest of your career.


3Getting into Graduate School

Of course, it is vital that you have good grades if you want to go on to graduate school or to get certain sorts of jobs. (Other jobs may depend on qualities that are poorly measured by grades.) But I suspect that the tiebreakers are not small GPA differences but other assessments:

1. The letters written about you by your teachers or bosses can make all the difference. How do they see you working? What kinds of promise do they discern in you? Do you evidence integrity, reliability, and self-discipline? Do some of them know you and your work?

2. Can you give evidence of quality work in a portfolio or a website? Do you have a spectacular piece of work that you might excerpt, for those places that do not want to see a portfolio? (If you go for an interview, bring along the portfolio. They cannot resist giving it a look.)

When you write your personal essay, do you sound like you know what you are doing? Is it well enough written that people do not have to worry about grammar, diction, or meaning?

Have you experience that transcends your grades or your school performance? You may have been an indifferent student, but then developed a strong record in your first jobs. You may show leadership or discipline in athletics. People do notice.

3. The United States is a particularly diverse place. YES, it is nicest to attend an elite institution, get the best grades, get hired by the most prominent firm, and move up the ladder – all the evidence suggests it helps. But it would seem that that rarely describes what happens. Rather, there are many starting places; there are many opportunities to evidence strength in your work and many paths along the way, surprising paths with interesting outcomes. Matching your strengths and the path you choose is what is crucial.

There's evidence that those who have lots get even more. But especially for graduate school, the spectrum of quality is too broad for there to be a simple peak pointing to a small number of institutions or departments, unless you have very narrow interests. What matters in the end is what you do with your capabilities and talents and energies. Match your interests and style and ambitions with an institution where you might excel and where you might have colleagues whom you can learn from.

People show strength, commitment, and focus in some areas. And that focused energy is what serves them in the longer run.


4Matching and Searching

There are two problems for prospective students: finding a program that fits them (their needs, their location, their interests), what I shall call matching; and finding the best program with or without matching considerations, what I shall call ranking. The matching/ranking issue is resolved for thousands of medical students each year by a computer algorithm that can be shown to be optimal under reasonable but not totally realistic conditions (A. Roth and M. Sotomayor, Two-Sided Matching, 1992). For most students, matching should dominate ranking considerations.


5Taking Advice

Here is Peter Debye, professor of physics at the ETH in Zurich, giving advice to Erwin Schroedinger, professor of theoretical physics at the University of Zurich, fall 1925:

Schroedinger, you are not working now on very important problems anyway. Why don't you tell us sometime [in our joint seminar] about that thesis of de Broglie [associating a wave with the electron orbiting a nucleus], which seems to have attracted some attention. (Schweber, Nuclear Forces, pp. 411–412, quoting from F. Bloch, Physics Today, 1976)


After Schroedinger gave the seminar, Debye told him that "this way of thinking was rather childish." As a student of Sommerfeld, Debye believed that you needed a wave equation to deal with waves, not just pictures à la de Broglie.

At a subsequent seminar, Schroedinger said, "My colleague Debye suggested that one should have a wave equation: well, I have found one."

Could your advisor say to you, "you are not working now on very important problems anyway"? Of course, Schroedinger was no longer a student, but still ...

One recurrent theme in my conversations with colleagues is that students resist taking our advice. We tell them to do X by a certain date, and they believe such is optional.

The major cost of resistance is that your advisor gives up on you. As you can imagine, this is not a good thing (in general). We want you to be very successful, and if your own path turns out to be right, and our advice is wrong, many of us are generous enough to delight in your success and our humiliation. However, this scenario is rarer than comedies allow you to believe.

If you decide not to follow your advisor's counsel, and you are explicit to your advisor about why, you may convince your advisor that you are right, or that at least you know that you are not taking the advice. But "resistance" describes ways that we do not consciously face what we are doing.

I have a catalog of good advice I have not taken – for which I have paid substantially. I consider myself a fluke, a survivor, someone who has paid handsomely for going my own way. I was under no heroic/comedic illusion. I always thought I had a very good sense about what I was doing. I did. But the advice was mostly about how not to fall into crevasses – and I have fallen.


6Students

There have always been grinds and nerds and intellectuals and artists, but much of the university student body lives not through the classroom and library and laboratory, but through undergraduate life, now enhanced by fitness centers and therapy. And graduate students in the professional schools are often not so different from the undergraduates, albeit they ought to be more focused on their schoolwork and often are. Whatever aura professors used to have has somewhat diminished.

In the end, discipline and character are what count, although there's no substitute for brains.


7Advice to New Doctoral Students

1. You are being trained to do research and participate in a community of scholars. Find a faculty member with whom you can work, at first on their ongoing projects, and link up early. You want someone who "owns" you, who feels responsible for you.

2. Attend public lectures and research seminars, often. People will notice that you are there. When you have questions, ask them.

3. Start looking at the top five journals in your area of concern or your field. If you have time, look at the last five years of issues.

4. Find peers, in your own department or in allied departments.

5. Start thinking about your future career. Go to meetings in your field, and eventually present at those meetings. It's fine to talk to anyone whose work interests you. Even the most prominent people rarely feel they are being attended to enough – they hunger for attention.

6. Start reading in your field, above and beyond your courses.

7. Look respectable. No flip-flops, no too-casual clothes. You really do not want to look like an undergraduate.

8. Prepare for your classes, so that you are able to contribute, to ask questions. If you are shy, you will have to learn to speak up.

9. If you have made a mistake in coming to this university, speak to your advisor early on, and see if something can be done. If nothing can be done, go to another university.

10. Intellectual and cultural life at a research university is usually rich, and you might as well enjoy it – seminars in other departments, visiting big shots.


8Why Get a PhD? Why Be a Professor? And Where?

1. The only good reason to get a PhD is that you want to pursue a research and teaching career. Almost surely in academia, sometimes in an appropriate consulting/research institution, or in industry or government.

2. There are two good reasons to become a professor: you want to do research; you want to teach. If you want to teach, mainly, be sure to find a position at an institution where teaching is a primary value – an undergraduate college or a comprehensive university that is not trying too hard to become a research university. If you do not want to teach, do not go to a university or a college – consulting/research will work better for you.

3. If you do not want to teach, and do not want to do research, why are you doing a PhD? If it is to challenge yourself intellectually, that is fine. If you want to write books, and have a good day job, that is fine, too. Otherwise, perhaps you ought to go to medical school or law school?


9For New Graduate Students

1. You can get a terrific education at the university. You need to do some course planning, sketching out what you might take each semester while you are here. You'll surely revise your plan, but at least you will be able to make sure you get the depth and focus you want, in the areas you want (rather than taking courses because they are offered conveniently and are still open).

Look beyond your degree faculty. The divisions we make by field among the faculty are to some extent arbitrary. There may be courses elsewhere that do just what you want – even if they are not "in" your degree program.

You may want to get involved with research projects of the faculty, even if they are not advertising for paid assistants. As a faculty, we have a deep research portfolio, with lots of external grants, and your interests and ours are likely to overlap.

2. Your main task is to learn to "think like a professional" in your field. It also means that you want to learn to write professionally, and in many fields to use the richer data sets we now have available, to be able to give oral presentations of your work, and to work in teams. You want to be able to serve your audience by writing an executive summary or introductory paragraph that gives away the whole story, and organizing the material in well-defined sections (each of which begins with a good one-paragraph summary and has a transparent heading). Simple and straightforward, clear and pointed, carefully argued but not obscure – these all matter.

3. One of my colleagues points out that you are a professional now. Act like one. Deliver on time. Do a more than good enough job. Act graciously in class and in public settings. The habits that might have worked for you as an undergraduate may not work at all in professional settings, and now is the time to become the person you want to be.


10Excellent Work

You go to the heart surgeon, and you hope that she has been well trained so that when you put your heart in her hands she will not mess up. You hope her reputation has been honestly earned.

There is surely a role for mercy and understanding in a university. But grades indicate quality of work, and that work should be commensurate with the grade. I might write a supportive letter for someone who has received a C in my class, for there are many reasons for someone to be commended besides their grade. For your grade, what matters is consistent work, doing the homework, multiple drafts or revisions, and professionalism.

In any particular area, some people are more talented than most others. They not only do well with less effort, but they may well do better than those who exert a great deal of effort. Hence, when I am asked what makes a paper excellent, I may well be thinking how much better the paper was in its final version than when it was first drafted (it went from C– to B+, say). Excellent work stands out; you want to show it to colleagues. And some project topics do not allow you to excel.


11Thinking Analytically while Reading a Paper or Listening to a Talk

Say that the first page or the first five minutes fail to clue you in to what is going on, what will be the results, and why they are interesting. Ask yourself the following questions:

• What is going on here? What is the story?

• What is strong about this work?

• Does it make sense? Is it surprising? Is it interesting?

• What did they do to find out?

• Would you buy a used car from this person?

• Would you buy this used car?

• Are they using models that have systematic lacunae or errors? Does that matter here?

• Are the fixed boundaries of the discipline blinding them to interesting analogies from other fields?

• What's at stake here? What would happen if the work were good and valid?

• Is the work credible on its face?

• In quantitative work do they give error bars that are reasonable? Did they include systematic errors?

• Are there alternative explanations that would seem to be easier to countenance, or are there manifest counterexamples – and have they presented them and argued them away reasonably?

• Are the arguments robust, or will they fall apart readily?

• Can you extend the proposed explanation or mechanism to other cases you know well?

• Analogy is a powerful tool for understanding. Is the story analogous to one you know already?

• Is the claim here distinctive, or has it been studied before?

• Are any of the above questions and problems indicative of a flaw or are they indicative of systematic misrepresentation?


More generally:

• Are the abstract, conclusion, or introduction informative? Was there a good preview?

• Did they hold back the main point until three-quarters of the way through the presentation?

• Is the presentation nicely divided into sections, deliberately labeled by subheads?


My experience is that error bars are often missing, stories are absent, numbers are hyperbolically exaggerated, and effects are claimed at incredible levels of accuracy.


12Excuses

I wrote to one student: You are very good at saying to me that you get my point, and then delivering something that is just barely good enough. Sort of how to cool out the professor. This may work in your professional environment, but it does not work well for me. I understand how you have to balance a variety of demands. Just so you know that your charm and intelligence and experience only go so far. Delivering well-thought-out work, on time, in depth, is what you want to aim for. I appreciate your having personal demands put on you, and perhaps this is your year from hell.

You see, the problem is that some students actually do deliver, on time, with good work. Perhaps it is one student in a class of thirty, maybe two in a class of eight. You actually do live in a competitive environment with some quite ambitious, very practical people. Again, I understand there are real reasons why one cannot deliver. But do not delude yourself – in the end you pay.


13Getting Your Doctoral Degree in the Fabled Four Years

Proviso – if you are starting in a new field of study, or if the doctoral research period may involve lab or fieldwork of two or three years, the following does not quite apply.

1. In your first two years you should take all your coursework and at the end take your qualifying exams. No later than the beginning of your second year, get linked up with a faculty advisor and start thinking about your research.

2. In year three do the fieldwork, data gathering, learning the advanced theory, archival work, experimental laboratory work (this may well require several years, so four years is unrealistic), proving.

3. In year four you write and look for a job. (The latter may fall in year five, since if you are looking for a job, you usually have to have something of your dissertation to show by the fall, and that is hard to do for fall of year four.)


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Scholar's Survival Manual by Martin H. Krieger. Copyright © 2013 Martin H. Krieger. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Martin H. Krieger is Professor of Planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan and has served for many years on university promotion and tenure committees. He is author of Doing Physics (second edition, IUP, 2012), Urban Tomographies (2011), Constitutions of Matter (1996), and Doing Mathematics (2003), among other books.

His blog is found at scholarssurvival.blogspot.com.

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