Seven Steps to Success in Graduate School (and Beyond)
N. J. Halas
The following is a list of essential skills that all successful
researchers have developed. Without these skills, you cannot expect
to succeed in research. If you fully develop your abilities in each
of these areas, you will lay a strong foundation for the rest of your
research career that will lead directly to success in research. The
responsibility for the development of these skills is entirely your
own. Your research advisor can provide guidance and assistance, but
your graduate education is your personal responsibility.
This list is meant to serve as a personal barometer for you to analyze
your strong and weak areas.
Develop a sense of urgency and the habit of working hard at
solving problems. Execute a project, master the difficulties,
debug your theory.
Understand, explain, and interpret your results. Learn how to
perform numerical experiments to gain insight and help construct
theories. Continually ask how far you can push and extend your
Investigate your area. Learn its history and context,
understand its technical foundation and background. Learn to read
technical papers with a critical eye, and with the expectation of
being able to duplicate and extend what is described in the article.
Follow your field by reading current journals. Know who did what in
your field as well as related areas.
Learn about other areas. Broaden yourself by reading articles
in IEEE Spectrum, IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, Science, and
others. Become familiar with other theoretical fields and
Write concise and focussed technical papers. Write a larger
and more comprehensive document (thesis). Learn how to write
Learn word processing and text formatting appropriate for
Discuss your ongoing research with peers, colleagues, and
visitors in an informal setting and at conferences. Learn how to make
a well-organized, coherent, and engaging presentation of your research
results in front of an audience. Understand the differences in
speaking to a general audience versus a technical audience. Cultivate
professional contacts and associations.
Time: Develop a sense of how long any specific task will take
you to execute.
People: Develop succesful working relationships with the people
you work with.
Research: Develop a research program, not just a number
of disconnected projects.
Anticipate where research is going in your area, both your own
and of your colleagues'. Become a generator of research ideas. Learn
to be able to judge when an idea is feasible and when a research
direction is important or impacting. Keep track of ideas, perhaps in
a research diary. Search for connections between ideas.
Last modified: Wed Jan 12 17:01:26 CST 2000
Richard G. Baraniuk.