Some suggestions for graduate students to be successful

This page provides some suggestions for graduate students to be successful.

  • Writing


  • Crystalizing the ideas through the process of putting things together
  • Hone the paper to a razor-sharp, articulate, polished work
  • Write the paper as early as possible, sometimes before even starting the research work
  • Will discover the important things that you have not thought about
  • The process of writing results in a flood of ideas
  • Even if a paper is not accepted, the process is energizing and often lead to new ideas for the next research problems
  • Submitting the paper is often the start of a new line of work
  • Get Results First than Writing?
    • Conventional mode
      • Idea-> Do research -> Write paper
    • How to write a great research paper” by Simon Peyton Jones (PDF, PPT)
      • Idea -> Write paper -> Do research
        • Forces us to be clear, focused
        • Crystallizes what we don’t understand
        • Opens the way to dialogue with others: reality check, critique, and collaboration
    • My way
      • Idea -> Write paper -> Do research -> Revise paper -> Do research -> Revise paper -> …
  • Interesting Title
    • Cool titles attract people
    • Grab people’s attention
    • But don’t be provocative


  • Start Working Early!

Write, write, write…

Ask others for comments


  • Work Hard in the Summer

  • Tell A Good Story

Good ideas and convincing results

  • More high impact papers are about how to get things done right!
  • Math Equations
    • Minimal number of equations

No more, no less

Too many details simply make a paper inaccessible

    • Many good papers have no or few equations (e.g., CVPR 13 best paper)


  • Lessons

    • Several influential papers have been rejected once or twice

    • Some best papers make little impact

    • Never give up in the process


  • Quotes from Steve Jobs

      • “ I’m convinced that about half of what separates successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance. ”
      • Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. ”


  • Other Quotes

      • Many things look difficult and mysterious at the first glance. But once we take the time to deconstruct them, the mystery is replaced by mastery!
      • “Behave for the job you want, I always say!” — by Prof. Niklas Elmqvist
      • TBA


  • Watch those, I think most of you will realize that we are able to do anything very well if we really want

    • Golden Buzzer: Kodi Lee Wows You With A Historical Music Moment! – America’s Got Talent 2019  (YouTube, Published on May 28, 2019)

After watching this amazing performance, we have no right to complain about life. We can do anything if we want to do.

    • Mandy Harvey: Deaf Singer Earns Simon’s Golden Buzzer With Original Song — America’s Got Talent 2017 (YouTube, Published on Jun 6, 2017)

Deaf singer follows her dreams and earns a Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell with her original song “Try.”


References and Further Reading List

Academic Research is defined by the father of the United States space program:  Werner von Braun

Basic research is what I am doing when I don’t know what I am doing?

Another definition of research :

Systematic investigation into a problem or situation, where the intention is to identify facts and/or opinions that will assist in solving the problem or dealing with the situation

The definition from the Cambridge English dictionary:

“Research: a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding”

Another realistic and practical adage for defining the research process for a PhD

“A PhD is about finding out more and more about less and less until one eventually knows everything about nothing (Anon.)”

Other definitions of academic research includes:

          • Making a rigorous and relevant contribution to knowledge.
          • Understanding of a cause and effect relationship of a given phenomenon or uncovering a new phenomenon
          • Organized inquiry to provide information for the solution to a problem (Emery&Cooper`91)
          • A careful and systematic investigation in some field of knowledge, undertaken to establish facts or principles (Kumar `96)
          • Scientific or scholarly inquiry or investigation and the proper communication of the findings (McCuen `96)

Useful Links:

    • The Power of Concentration by Theron Q. Dumont (Audio version freely available on LibriVox; note that you can download the .mp3 files — HERE you can download the Whole book (zip file) if its not retrievable on LibriVox website.)
    • TBA

Good resources about teaching and mentoring

This page provides some good resources about teaching and mentoring.

Related image

See some good excerpts from the nice summary post:

(The emphasis in italic and in blue is mine, and I highly agree with the methods in blue and I have been applying those in my own teaching and mentoring, even way before I saw this good summary post. These methods applicable for teaching and learning anything, not just for GIS. For example, I have used them for highly programing-oriented course I taught.)

‘The notion that people learn best when they actively construct knowledge in relation to what they already know is not a new idea, of course. Neither am I alone in believing that students – particularly adult students – should be challenged to take more responsibility for their own learning. For example,

Karen Kemp, Professor of Practice at the University of Southern California and co-editor of the original NCGIA Core Curriculum in GIS, says “my goal in teaching now in our field is simply to teach students how to learn.

Don Boyes of the University of Toronto reports that “Where it makes sense, I am encouraging students to learn how to find their own data … I provide some guidance about where to look for data and how to evaluate it, but I want them to be in charge of their own work as much as possible.

At Minnesota State University Moorhead, David Kramar “generally begin[s] the semester with some cookbook/step-by-step exercises that are intended to get the students familiar with the software interface and basic functionality. However, my ‘true’ labs require them to think critically, use the help and search functionality, and (frankly) figure it out for themselves (with my guidance and assistance as needed).”’

‘There are many ways to get students more actively involved in learning. The right strategy depends on your educational objectives, your students’ ages and experience, and your instructional context. For instance, …, Boris Mericskay at Université Rennes2 developed an “inverted approach” in which he “poses a problem to students and leaves it to them to find the right tools and how to combine them.” “At the beginning the students are a little lost,” Boris admits, “but eventually they figure out how to apply GIS to solve the problem I posed.” Like Don Boyes and others, Bob Kolvoord of James Madison University has taken a “flipped classroom” approach, in which “students have various work they need to do to prepare for class and then class time is spent working on largely open-ended exercises to bolster their spatial thinking and GIS skills.” ‘

Requiring students to take greater responsibility for their learning isn’t easy, and it’s not for everyone. … Aaron Addison of Washington University in St. Louis reports that “I’ve tried the ‘guide on the side’ rather than ‘sage on the stage’ approach at the graduate student level, and to a lesser extent at the undergraduate level. My experience (unfortunately) is that it may work on a 1:1 basis, but does not appear to result in successful outcomes in a classroom setting with 15-20 students.” Bob Kolvoord relates that “on the whole, the flipped classroom approach works well, but it can be a challenge for students who aren’t motivated or that have poor task/time management skills.”’

 ‘What about the students in my new course? A formal evaluation of student outcomes and preferences is underway, but anecdotal data is the best I have to share at this point. I found feedback from one student – an accomplished young woman who is new to GIS but previously earned a PhD in Marine Geochemistry – particularly enlightening. Early in the first offering of the course, she wrote me privately to express frustration. She wrote, “I (and probably most students) signed up to learn from an expert (and you are, according to your credentials, an expert!). But in the discussion forums, we’re learning from our peers, and most of us are hardly experts.” She felt cheated. Rather than waiting to submit an anonymous evaluation at the end of the course, she asked permission to create a forum in which students could share critiques and suggestions about the course. Later in the course I took her advice, and invited all 53 students to post in a Course Commentary discussion. By this time, students had about six weeks of experience with the new course format. On reflection, the same student wrote this:

… after my first exchange with David a few weeks back about my frustrations with this class … I dug up an interesting article in Harvard Magazine1 about how interactive learning is much more successful than traditional (lecture) teaching and learning methods, although it meets with a lot of resistance. I was skeptical then, but the more time passes, the more I find this active learning class engaging, the more I enjoy what I’m learning, and the more I agree that, overall, this pedagogical method has been a success with me.’

‘Other students complained that researching unfamiliar topics independently, and reading their peers’ many posts, was too time-consuming. Fellow instructor Adrienne Goldsberry and I streamlined that aspect of the course for the second offering, and fewer complaints about excessive workloads followed. However, it remains true that students who are unfamiliar with the subject matter, or who prefer their accustomed roles as consumers of instructor-produced content, are uncomfortable with the level of responsibility that the course demands.’

‘At this point it should be clear that the call to action in the title of this short article is purposefully provocative. Naturally, every college and university educator wants to help students learn to discover, evaluate, apply, and share knowledge independently and in groups. Even so, I believe it’s healthy for GIS educators to ask ourselves frankly whether we give our students enough responsibility for their own learning. The question and answer has been transformative for me.’

I agree on the seven characteristics of good learners summarized in the post by Dr. , according to my own learning experience and my teaching and mentoring experience, especially the following six.

— Good learners are curious,

— Good learners pursue understanding diligently,

Failure frightens good learners, but they know it’s beneficial,

— Good learners make knowledge their own,

— Good learners never run out of questions,

— Good learners share what they’ve learned. (I agree on this point a lot, and thus cannot help reposting it here with double quotes  — the emphasis in bold is mine.)

“Knowledge is inert. Unless it’s passed on, knowledge is lost. Good learners are teachers committed to sharing with others what they’ve learned. They write about it, and talk about it. Good learners can explain what they know in ways that make sense to others. They aren’t trapped by specialized language. They can translate, paraphrase, and find examples that make what they know meaningful to other learners. They are connected to the knowledge passed on to them and committed to leaving what they’ve learned with others.”