Getting What You Came For

Getting What You Came For

For some of you, coming to the University of Maine is just a continuation of your graduate education, but for the majority this represents the first stages of your graduate career. In order to help you on your way, we polled a small group of graduate students to try to accumulate a collection of advice on how to have a happy and productive time at UMaine. We hope to expand this collection with future suggestions, so feel free to send us your nuggets of wisdom. The attached Appendix supplies the official rules and regulations provided by the Graduate School, but here is our advice.

Dealing With Your Advisor

  • Be straightforward with your advisor and let him or her know what you want out of your graduate education. He or she may not be able to fulfill all of your expectations, but at least everyone knows your goals.
  • Do what your advisor says or at least look like you are. They have the ultimate control over you and eventually you will need their reference to get a job somewhere.
  • Make sure you and your advisor are clear on what is your research and what is their research. You don’t want to work for two years only to find out that you haven’t completed any of your own thesis work.
  • Insist on a time-management plan of some sort. This may include deadlines, weekly meetings, detailed timelines or any other tool that keeps both of you honest on what you are suppose to accomplish by when.

Dealing With Your Committee

  • Decide your committee members early on and get to know their particular research interests. It never hurts to read some articles written by each of the members of your committee.
  • Talk to other graduate students about a particular faculty member before inviting them on your committee.
  • Certain professors have reputations and you would be wise to make sure you know what you are getting into.
  • Your advisor is in charge of your committee. If you are having problems with a committee member that you can’t work out on your own, you should set up a meeting with your advisor to work things out.
  • Make sure your committee reads and approves your research proposal. It is not enough to just assume that they read it. A lesson to the wise: you can never have too many committee meetings or repeat the basic research steps you will be taking too many times.
  • You may find that you have difficulties with one committee member more so than the others. Talk to your advisor about the problems you are having and try to work out a solution. You do have the option of replacing the committee member if it is something that you and your advisor agree would be beneficial to your situation.
  • If you have difficulties working with your advisor, try talking to another faculty member in the department that you trust. If you are uncomfortable talking to someone in your department, contact Scott Delcourt in the Graduate School office for a confidential advisory meeting.
  • Start writing your thesis right away. You can write the introduction, literature review, and methods sections long before you have any new information or data. As you complete drafts, have a fellow graduate student or your advisor review and edit these sections.
  • Find out all the steps you need to take before you can graduate. There are fees to pay, formats to follow and deadlines to meet if you want to graduate at a specific time. It is probably in some book somewhere, but confirm things with a real human. Start with your departmental administrative assistant, then check with the Graduate School.
  • The individual project you work on is not as important as showing that you followed a clear path of inquiry. As Picasso said, art is process not product.
  • If you have a summer research or teaching assignment, you must have a registered course load to be eligible for an assistantship and to get paid – so take one Graduate Thesis credit.
  • If you are from out of state and want to be able to access or use a University vehicle through the facilities management motor pool department, be sure to visit them at least two weeks early. Out of state licenses take longer to perform a background check than in state licenses. Forms and information for renting a vehicle can be found at: http://www.umaine.edu/ofm/motor-pool/index.shtml.

Things We Wish Others Had Told Us Early On

  • Start writing your thesis right away. You can write the introduction, literature review, and methods sections long before you have any new information or data. As you complete drafts, have a fellow graduate student or your advisor review and edit these sections.
  • Find out all the steps you need to take before you can graduate. There are fees to pay, formats to follow and deadlines to meet if you want to graduate at a specific time. It is probably in some book somewhere, but confirm things with a real human. Start with your departmental administrative assistant, then check with the Graduate School.
  • The individual project you work on is not as important as showing that you followed a clear path of inquiry. As Picasso said, art is process not product.
  • If you have a summer research or teaching assignment, you must have a registered course load to be eligible for an assistantship and to get paid – so take one Graduate Thesis credit.
  • If you are from out of state and want to be able to access or use a University vehicle through the facilities management motor pool department, be sure to visit them at least two weeks early. Out of state licenses take longer to perform a background check than in state licenses. Forms and information for renting a vehicle can be found at: http://www.umaine.edu/ofm/motor-pool/index.shtml.