eventually—with the addition of detailed empirical results or formal
proofs—become journal articles. It’s usually okay to publish the same or
substantially similar papers in multiple workshops, but papers for conferences and journals are generally required to be original, unpublished work.
It is critical that any paper you plan to submit be read by someone else
first, if only to check for typos, grammatical errors, and style. A good
reviewer will give you feedback on the organization and content of the
paper as well. The more tightly refereed the publication you’re submitting
to, the more trouble you should go to in order to have it pre-reviewed. For
a workshop paper, having your advisor read it over (assuming you can convince them to do so!) is probably enough. For a refereed conference, have
one or two other graduate students read it as well. For a journal paper, you
should probably find researchers who are active in the field, preferably at
other institutions (to give breadth), read it over and give you comments.
This is where the network of colleagues you should build comes in handy.
If you go through multiple revisions of a paper, don’t expect the same
person (even—perhaps especially—your advisor) to keep reading new
drafts. You should only give a revised draft to your advisor or another
reviewer if the paper has changed substantially and she has said that she
is willing to reread it.
If your paper is rejected, keep trying! Take the reviews to heart and try
to rewrite the paper, addressing the reviewer’s comments. You’ll get more
substantial and useful reviews from journals than conferences or workshops.
Often a journal paper will be returned for revisions; usually a conference
paper will just be accepted or rejected outright. After reading the review the
first time, put it aside. Come back to it later, reading the paper closely to
decide whether the criticisms were valid and how you can address them.
You will often find that reviewers make criticisms that are off-target
because they misinterpreted some aspect of your paper, or just because
they’re lazy. If so, don’t let it get to you—just rewrite that part of your paper
more clearly so that the same misunderstanding won’t happen again. It’s
frustrating to have a paper rejected because of a misunderstanding, but at
least it’s something you can fix. On the other hand, criticisms of the content of the paper may require more substantial revisions—rethinking your
ideas, running more tests, or reworking an analysis. (On the gripping hand,
sometimes a paper is rejected for neither of these reasons, but because of
politics: somebody on the reviewing committee dislikes your topic, your
advisor, your writing style, or even you personally for some reason. This is
all the more reason to try resubmitting to a different conference or journal!)
them comments. (If you do this, they’ll be sure to remember you!) Bring
business cards with your email address to conferences to help new
acquaintances jog their memory.
To maintain the relationships you form, use email and re-establishing
contact at each workshop or conference you attend. If you work at it, and
use your initial acquaintances to meet new people, you’ll find that your
network grows rapidly. (Agre [ 1] has some excellent suggestions for networking on the Internet.)
Sometimes these contacts will grow into opportunities to do collaborative research. Seize these: you will meet more people, often become exposed
to new methods of doing research or new subfields within your research
area, and the responsibility you feel towards your collaborator may give you
more of an incentive to stay motivated and keep accomplishing something.
Other professional activities can bring you into the research network as
well: volunteer for program committees, send your resume to a book review
editor, offer to give seminars at other universities, write conference and workshop papers and send them to people you’ve met or would like to meet, or
organize a workshop on your subfield at a larger conference. Summer internships at research laboratories or even other universities is a good way to get
an idea of what the “real world” of research is like, to meet more new colleagues, and to get a different perspective on research problems in your field.
Mentoring junior graduate students and undergraduates is a good
investment in the long run besides providing them a valuable service and
making you feel useful and knowledgeable.
Finding specific mentors can be very useful. Especially if you feel that
you are isolated at your institution, having a colleague at another institution
who can give you advice, feedback on drafts of papers, and suggestions for
research directions can be extremely valuable.
Advice for Advisors
In order to be a good advisor, you have to relate to your graduate students
as individuals, not just as anonymous research assistants or tickets to tenure
and co-authored publications. Work with all of your graduate students, not
just those whom you feel most comfortable with, or who are interested in
the problems you’re most excited about. Try to get to know your students
personally and professionally. Help them to identify their strengths and
weaknesses, to build on the former, and to work on overcoming the latter.
Give them honest evaluations of their work and performance: don’t just
assume that they know how they’re doing and what you think of them.
Read this paper and others like it with an eye towards discovering
which aspects of the graduate experience your students may be having
trouble with or may not realize the importance of. Try to see the experience
from their perspective, which will be different for each student, because
each student has a different background and different talents and goals.
The roles of an advisor include:
• Guiding students’ research: help them to select a topic, write a research proposal, perform the research, evaluate it critically, and write the dissertation.
Getting them involved in the wider research community: introducing
them to colleagues, collaborating on research projects with them, funding conference travel, encouraging them to publish papers, nominating
them for awards and prizes.
• Finding financial support: providing research assistantships or helping
them find fellowships and summer positions.
Finding a position after graduation: helping them to find and apply for
postdoctoral positions, faculty positions, and jobs in industry, and also,
supporting their applications with strong recommendations and helping
them to make contacts.
One of the most important skills you should be learning in graduate school
is how to “network.” Breaking into the research community requires attending conferences, meeting established researchers, and making yourself
known. Networking is a learned skill, so you shouldn’t expect to be an expert at it immediately; but it is also a skill that you can, and should, learn
in order to be a successful member of the research community.
Going to conferences and standing in the corner is not enough.
Especially if you’re not normally an outgoing person, you have to make a •
conscious effort to meet and build relationships with other researchers.
Presenting papers is a good way to do this, since people will often approach
you to discuss your presentation. Introducing yourself to people whose presentations you found interesting, and asking a relevant question or describing related research you’re doing, is also a good way to meet people.
Sometimes it’s easier to meet other graduate students than senior
researchers—this is fine, since those graduate students will provide con- •
tacts to the senior people they know, and someday they’ll be senior people
themselves (as will you)!
You should talk about your research interests every chance you get (but
also be sure to spend some time listening: you’ll learn more this way, and
people will feel that your conversations are a two-way street). Have sum-maries of various lengths and levels of detail of your work mentally prepared, so that you can intelligently and clearly answer the inevitable “So
what are you working on?”. If someone expresses an interest in your work,
follow up! Send them emails discussing new ideas or asking questions.
Send them drafts of papers; ask them for drafts of their papers and send
Although guiding your students’ research is normally viewed as the central
task of an advisor, the other roles are also critical to their long-term success.
The beginning of this article contains advice, for students, on networking. You
can help them in this process by funding and encouraging travel to conferences and paper publication, and by introducing them and talking about their
research to colleagues. Nigel Ward’s useful tips on what not to do are