Graduate Research Colloquium I

Jul 2012

J. Paul Martin is a wonderful, wonderful person, but not so good as a professor. I hate to say that, because criticizing paul martin kind of feels like kicking a puppy. He's just that nice of a guy. However, the course (promoted as a solid research introduction for grad students returning to school after years in the professional realm) was messy, erratic, and confusing. Some students were about to graduate and were just in the class to get feedback and discussion on their almost-completed theses. Good for them - I think they got a few credits and an easy A for showing up and workshopping their research. I do not, however, envy them for spending good money to gain almost nothing from a class, and mostly receive haphazard and often contradictory advice from Martin and the class. As one of the students in the course as a survey of human rights graduate research (again, it was actually billed this way) I was disappointed to find that you cannot do the course unless you know what your thesis topic will be. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are lying to you. It's tempting to believe that "even students unsure of their thesis topic on day one will get excellent guidance toward penning a thesis proposal by the end of the semester." I fell for it myself, and then didn't drop the class because I was naive. Don't make my mistake. The guidance and advice that you get based on your general interests and abilities will not lead you closer to a thesis topic. It'll just confuse the hell out of you because the "assignment" and advice from last week's class will be forgotten by the time you return with hours of research under your belt. When you present what you've done on Martin's advice, I guarantee you he will decide that wasn't actually the best idea and you should pursue something only tangentially related, just to return next week again to repeat the process. I got an A, but I'm still fuming over the rambling, aimless, confusing, and imprecise instruction. If this course is required in your program, see if you can waive it OR wait to take it last, when you've already almost completed a thesis designed with the input of professors who are actually capable of guiding your research questions and methodology. Final verdict: I'm adept enough at wasting my own time. I really didn't need to pay GSAS to do it for me.