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Making progress

Don't take too long!

As with all of my advice, this should be taken as supplementary to the official advice you can get from the University Dean of Graduate Studies web pages and our own School of Communication web pages for graduate students.

As a rough guideline you should think of yourself as making good progress if you are ready to write your MA thesis by December of your second year (presuming you started in September of 2007, then be ready to start that thesis in December of 2008, for example.

PhD students: Getting from courses to comps

I have a separate page on comprehensive exams, so I won't cover that topic in detail here, but there is definitely a trick to getting from the courses stage to the comprehensive exams. Sometimes it seems obvious what to do, other times it seems like an insurmountable hurdle. Here are some suggestions for getting past that blockage:

First of all, try to take some time to reflect on what you've learned in your courses and in your previous degrees and life in general. What does that tell you about your perspective on the world and how knowledge is created? Imagine yourself in a life of scholarship. What approach would you take to a series of problems - since the dissertation is bound to be the start of your career, not the end of it - and how would you like to spend your time solving those problems? In other words, what is your theoretical perspective, or stance, or position on things and what method do you want to use to do your work? Having clarity about theory and method ensures that the next step, selecting a research topic or question, is grounded in what is feasible and worth doing.

With your theoretical perspective and methodological approach in hand (or at least a recognition of your personal preferences/biases), you can now try to select a research topic. Try to pick something that you care about enough to stick with for at least a couple of years. You are going to get tired of this topic eventually, believe me.