_Journal of College Science Teaching_/ February, 1992

            "A Point-of-View"

                           MARSHALL LEV DERMER
           Marshall Lev Dermer is an associate professor in the
	        department of Psychology at the University of
	         Wisconsin--Milwaukee, Milwaukee, WI 53201

             Have you taken a careful look at your diploma recently?
	   Mine was awarded with unspecified "privileges and
	   obligations."  What are these "obligations"? I believe
	   that we must provide frank advice to new and prospective
	   graduate students about becoming scientists and doing

             Our professional associations, graduate schools, and
           departments provide helpful advice.  For example, The
           National Academy of Sciences publishes _On Being a
           Scientist_ (1989); and The Council of Graduate Schools
           distributes: _The Doctor of Philosophy Degree_ (1990),
           _Research Student and Supervisor:  An Approach to Good
           Supervisory Practice_(1990), and _The Role and Nature of
           the Doctoral Dissertation_(1991).  Such advice, however,
           is unlikely to be frank because it represents the
           interests of scientists and research organizations rather
           than the interests of new or prospective graduate
           students.  Successful scientists will on occasion offer
           candid advice, but their advice is often only for
           "insiders" working in their laboratories. Every new
           generation of students should have this opportunity
           because inside information can enhance the success and
           happiness of future scientists and the quality of

             Beginning graduate students should understand that they
           will be making a transition from consuming knowledge to
           generating and disseminating knowledge.  They should
           understand that although they were selected for excellent
           performance in undergraduate courses, what counts most in
           graduate school is research.

             For some students the transition will be very
           difficult. In comparison to the classroom, research is
           often less structured and often provides less immediate
           feedback.  In addition to effective time-management
           skills, students need strong communication skills to
           effectively write manuscripts, speak at conferences, and

             The success of the transition depends most critically
	   on whom they choose as their adviser.  Students need to
	   understand that this choice is almost as important as
	   whom they select as their spouse. It is not merely that
	   an adviser provides equipment and supplies, access to
	   assistantships, and vital letters of recommendation.
	   Advisers provide immediate and constructive feedback
	   regarding a student's attempts to understand nature.
	   Without such feedback students are likely to waste
	   precious time or simply fail.  We must, therefore,
	   frankly discuss criteria for evaluating potential
	   advisers and motivate students to acquire the relevant
	   evaluative information.

             The ideal adviser should be with the student at the
           laboratory bench.  Ivan Pavlov was described as watching
           experiments for hours, regularly examining protocols, and
           often remembering data better than did his students
           (Babkin, 1949). For non-laboratory or non-experimental
           sciences, the ideal adviser should be with the student as
           data is collected.

             The ideal adviser should have an ongoing research
           program.  A new student in Pavlov's laboratory was
           required to replicate the last dissertation conducted
           there.  This requirement both enhanced the care with
           which Pavlov's senior students conducted their work and
           provided a test of a new student's ability to follow
           directions.  Subsequently, the new student extended the
           replication.  Obviously, new students did not have to
           conduct an exhaustive literature survey. They worked in
           the laboratory where the most systematic and current
           research was being conducted!

             Of course, not every student can have a "Pavlov" for an
           adviser. Nevertheless, if a student's adviser is
           enthusiastic about research and is at the bench with the
           student, an alternative strategy is to replicate and
           extend important work conducted in some other
           researcher's laboratory. Should the research be
           successful, this strategy has the advantage that this
           other researcher will likely be chosen as a reviewer and
           positively evaluate the extension.  Another advantage of
           having an adviser who is not eminent is that when their
           students earn their doctorates they will not have to
           contend with the "shadow effect" e.g., "Yes we know that
           you studied with famous Professor Pavlov but we don't
           know whether the work is yours or his!"  It is possible
           for students to even have the best of both worlds by
           choosing a less prestigious scientist for an adviser, and
           having most prestigious scientists on their dissertation
           committees. The eminent scientists can provide sage
           advice and later vital letters of recommendation.

             Students must understand that replication and extension
	   is a cautious but productive strategy. Doing anything
	   else is traveling off the beaten path. Certainly "riches"
	   may be found where others have not ventured, but there is
	   also danger.  A series of interlocking, replications and
	   extensions can minimize risk and provide a "rich" context
	   of justification and discovery. Confirmations extend the
	   generality of the original conceptualizations.
	   Disconfirmations can force assumptions to be reconsidered
	   by the investigator and, perhaps, an entire discipline.

             Students should understand the psychological and social
           effects of the replication and extension approach.  
           First, the approach enhances students' confidence in the
           quality of their work. Second, their record of building
           on their research increases the chances that others will
           notice the work and extend it too. Replication and
           extension, consequently, can enhance immediate personal
           satisfaction and eventual professional recognition.

             There are, of course, no magic rules for scientific
           discovery, professional success, or personal happiness.  
           Consequently, it is important that vital issues such as
           searching for and selecting an adviser; choosing a
           research topic; and being a responsible scientist be
           thoughtfully discussed with other students and
           scientists.  For undergraduates a multi-disciplinary
           science seminar concerned with preparing for graduate
           school is most appropriate; for graduate students there
           are, of course, proseminars and departmental colloquia.

             There are several texts that offer advice which is
           often more candid than "official" advice.  I enjoyed
           Dukelow's _Graduate Student Survival_(1980), and Stock's _A
           practical guide to graduate research_(1985).  More texts
           can be located by using the following Library of Congress
           subject headings:  (1) dissertations, academic
           --handbooks, manuals, etc.; (2) research--handbooks,
           manuals, etc.; (3) research--methodology, (4)
           universities and college graduate work; (5)
           sciences--vocational guidance, and (6) e.g.,
           "physicists--biography" for physicists,
           "psychologists--biography" for psychologists, etc.

             Frank advice is occasionally published in journals and
           is often exchanged on the USENET news group
           "soc.college.grad" or, of course, when scientists speak
           candidly. I believe that most scientists would feel
           privileged to provide frank advice in a seminar or
           colloquium.  Should some appear reluctant, have them look
           for the "privileges and obligations" clause on their


           Babkin, B. P. 1949. _Pavlov: A biography_.  Chicago:
             University of Chicago.

           Council of Graduate Schools.  1990.  _The doctor of
             philosophy degree_. Washington, D.C.: Council of
             Graduate Schools.

           Council of Graduate Schools.  1990.  _Research student
             and supervisor:  An approach to good supervisory
             practice_. Washington, D.C.: Council of Graduate

           Council of Graduate Schools.  1991.  _The role and nature
             of the doctoral dissertation_.  Washington, D.C.:
             Council of Graduate Schools.

           Dukelow, W. R. 1980. _Graduate student survival_.
             Springfield, Ill.:  Charles Thomas.

           National Academy of Sciences. 1989. _On being a scientist_.
             Washington, D.C.:National Academy Press.

           Stock, M. 1985. _A practical guide to graduate research_.  
             New York: McGraw-Hill.


             Special thanks are due my colleagues Alan Baron and Jay
           Moore, and the readers of the science conferences of
           USENET who commented on "An Insider's Guide to Choosing a
           Graduate Adviser and Research Projects in Laboratory
           Sciences." The latter manuscript is the basis for this
           "Point of View" and is available from the author