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Researching Programs: Profiling Faculty

Summary:

This section details what to look for in a graduate program--both on a personal and professional level. Personally, you need to consider location, community, campus culture, and other non-academic issues that will affect your happiness. Professionally, you need to figure out your research interest, map the field, research the faculty you’ll be working with, understand your funding package, calculate work requirements, and analyze research resources.   

Contributors:Adryan Glasgow
Last Edited: 2012-09-21 11:22:33

Understanding the Importance of Faculty

An important part of profiling a program is looking at the faculty that make up that program. As a graduate student, you will certainly have access to a number of qualified and engaging professors, but you will also be expected to forge a mentor/mentee relationship with a specific faculty member quite early on. This person will be central to determining what kind of research you will do, what kind of funding you may receive, and even to a degree, what your working habits will be; all factors which can drastically influence your chances of successfully completing your degree.

Because the relationship between graduate students and faculty members is so integral to a graduate education, your research of specific faculty members may not only help you to choose a program; it may also significantly influence a graduate program's decision of whether or not to accept you. Including an argument for why you should work with specific faculty members in your personal statement will not only impress an admissions committee, it will help them to see how you might fit into their program. For more information on writing personal statements for graduate school applications, see Writing Personal Statements for Graduate School Applications on the Purdue OWL. 

Researching Faculty

Researching faculty is not easy. You can't simply got to a website like Rate My Professor and see if they give easy A's—in many graduate programs, you will be expected to get A's in every class. Much of what you need to learn about a faculty member has to be pieced together from what little data is available. Consider the following resources to help you learn more about the faculty in the programs to which you might apply:

Professor's Curriculum Vita

The Curriculum Vita (CV) is an academic resume and should be the first step in researching a faculty member. The CV provides a list of the professor's publications, appointments, and professional service. Most professors post their CV on the department faculty page or on a personal website.

Google Scholar

This specialized search engine has a feature that tells you how often each source is cited in other sources. This can help to gauge just how influential a given scholar is within a field. Keep in mind, though, that some people are cited as much for their infamy as for their contributions. It doesn't hurt to look at some of the sources that cite your scholar and see what it is they're saying.

E-mail

Sending an email to a professor to ask them about their research can be an intimidating task, and not without reason. However, it is unlikely that a professor will resent an honest inquiry. Keep in mind that professors know graduate students are still learning; they don't expect potential graduate students to know everything. As long as your email was worded professionally and warmly, your name will be remembered as that of an engaged junior scholar.

Other Considerations

Here are some things to consider that may tell you more about a particular faculty member and what working with them may be like:

In choosing a faculty member, consider the following factors:

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