PsychMajorUndergrad18

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Hello Everyone,

I was just wondering if you would rather, as a professor, have a graduate student who knows actually what they want to study to the tee or a grad student who has a few interests that aren't as narrow or exact as the other person and is open to consider other interests of faculty or tie in topics that are related to his topic?
Thanks,
PsychMajorUndergrad18
 

CheetahGirl

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I am not a professor but I could play one on TV.

I would want the potential student to be as sharp as they could be, irrespective of how their research interests apply to exisitng work. Meaning if you bring your own ideas, get them done. If you align with mine, great! Merge your ideas, but the work should be reasonable and then followed through, not lofty. I would shy away from a lot of bolstered talk, or failed promises. That is what I have observed and believe slows folks down or gets in the way, from the established researcher's/professor's perspective and work.

I love the saying "If you talk the talk, walk the walk."
 
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Justanothergrad

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Yes, I agree with cheetah. Of your options what matters to me is general ability to think critically with some idea of where they want to explore. I'm a firm believer that shutting yourself down to do only one thing is an unfortunate foreclosure of thought, especially since undergrad doesn't give you explosure to even half of the things in applied psychology. I know very few people who have not seen their interests shift some (or at least widen or adapt) during training. That isn't to say that people can't know, but don't expect to and don't assume you should.
 

MamaPhD

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My oldest kid has a small book of "would you rather..." questions that are absolutely revolting. That's what I thought of when I saw this thread, along the same lines as erg.

The answer is that I would rather work with the student who thinks well, writes well, and generally follows through on commitments.
 

PsychScience

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The answer is that I would rather work with the student who thinks well, writes well, and generally follows through on commitments.
This every time.

However, clinical psych programs are competitive enough that faculty can typical recruit a student that has both the characteristics of a critical thinker and also is a good fit in terms of research.

To answer your question, when applying to programs with a mentor model, it is less important that you know precisely what you want to study and more important that you have a general idea of your research interests and those interests align well with the faculty you would like to work with.
 
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Well thank you all for contributing to this thread. Maybe I should have added to the question "would you rather...... (research interest edition)"
Hey, if my patients can frustrate me with tangents that avoid the real work all day long, why can't we? ;)

Besides I think the answers you received already just about covered it. Also, like many of the questions asked on here, the real answer is that it depends. In other words, there are so many variables that it is difficult to provide a straightforward answer. Some PIs might want more focused students whereas some might prefer more broadly experienced. Some students focus could be a sign of stubbornness or rigidity whereas some students broad interests could be a sign of poor organization or scatterbrainedeness. I am oversimplifying a bit so the variables are actually more complex than that. I think if you shoot for the middle and take advantage of the research opportunities that are available then you'll be alright. :)
 

Ceke2002

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Hey, if my patients can frustrate me with tangents that avoid the real work all day long, why can't we? ;)
That's what it took for your patient to frustrate you with a tangent though? A completely out of left field question? Wow, my job is so much easier; all I have to do is say the words "Comic books, Doctor Who, Star Wars, Tolkien, or I still have my Gene Simmons and Ace Frehley dolls from the late 70s", and both my Psychiatrist and I suddenly transform into super nerds for at least the next 5-10 minutes. ;) :p
 

Ceke2002

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Hello Everyone,

I was just wondering if you would rather, as a professor, have a graduate student who knows actually what they want to study to the tee or a grad student who has a few interests that aren't as narrow or exact as the other person and is open to consider other interests of faculty or tie in topics that are related to his topic?
Thanks,
PsychMajorUndergrad18
Sorry for the thread derail, in all seriousness thank you for asking this question. I'm pre-psychology (well actually pre-pre-psychology, it's a long story) and even though I know any research papers or submissions are a long, long way off for me yet I already think I know what I do want to study or research - but then again I'm also wont to change my mind on a regular basis, so seeing answers from more experienced folks on both sides of the equation was very useful. :)
 

PsychScience

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Sorry for the thread derail, in all seriousness thank you for asking this question. I'm pre-psychology (well actually pre-pre-psychology, it's a long story) and even though I know any research papers or submissions are a long, long way off for me yet I already think I know what I do want to study or research - but then again I'm also wont to change my mind on a regular basis, so seeing answers from more experienced folks on both sides of the equation was very useful. :)
Changing your mind, or taking your research in a different direction is not uncommon! It's also not a bad thing per se to have broad research interests, but there are both effective ways to indicate broad research interests and also less ideal ways.

For example when asked what they are interested in researching:

Applicant 1 states: Oh, you know, I'm interested in a lot of different things. Studying X seems really interesting, but studying Z also seems cool. I could do something with either I think.

Applicant 2 states: Well, I spent some time studying X as a research assistant and became really fascinated with the underlying mechanism behind when X occurs and when it does not. I think an interesting next step would be to study X under conditions Y vs. W to try and tease that apart. In some of my independent research I also have studied Z, and think it would be really interesting to explore this about Z. At least initially, however, I think that I would like to focus my research on studying X, which aligns well with the work being done by Professor Looking4astudent. [Transitions to talking about Professors research]

I've heard both types of responses. Guess who got offered a position?
 
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Changing your mind, or taking your research in a different direction is not uncommon! It's also not a bad thing per se to have broad research interests, but there are both effective ways to indicate broad research interests and also less ideal ways.

For example when asked what they are interested in researching:

Applicant 1 states: Oh, you know, I'm interested in a lot of different things. Studying X seems really interesting, but studying Z also seems cool. I could do something with either I think.

Applicant 2 states: Well, I spent some time studying X as a research assistant and became really fascinated with the underlying mechanism behind when X occurs and when it does not. I think an interesting next step would be to study X under conditions Y vs. W to try and tease that apart. In some of my independent research I also have studied Z, and think it would be really interesting to explore this about Z. At least initially, however, I think that I would like to focus my research on studying X, which aligns well with the work being done by Professor Looking4astudent. [Transitions to talking about Professors research]

I've heard both types of responses. Guess who got offered a position?
What's fascinating about this is that it seems obvious which would be the better applicant, but the research on this is clear that an interview is not predictive of performance. As someone who has hired people, I have seen this play out many times. I hire applicant one because of his or her well-thought out answer and then have to fire them two weeks later. Call up applicant one out of desperation and find that they are a solid employee that presents poorly during interviews. Very similar scenarios have happened to me several times, it's pretty amazing to be honest. You still want to aspire to be person one though. ;)
 

PsychScience

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What's fascinating about this is that it seems obvious which would be the better applicant, but the research on this is clear that an interview is not predictive of performance. As someone who has hired people, I have seen this play out many times. I hire applicant one because of his or her well-thought out answer and then have to fire them two weeks later. Call up applicant one out of desperation and find that they are a solid employee that presents poorly during interviews. Very similar scenarios have happened to me several times, it's pretty amazing to be honest. You still want to aspire to be person one though. ;)

You are absolutely right that interviews have very little incremental predictive value over other areas of the application. This is actually why I think some internships have moved away from doing interviews and actually just do open houses instead.

That being said, I think I just wanted to point out that to some degree the answer to "Is it better to have specific research interests or is okay to have broad interests" also depends on how you present it.
 
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You are absolutely right that interviews have very little incremental predictive value over other areas of the application. This is actually why I think some internships have moved away from doing interviews and actually just do open houses instead.

That being said, I think I just wanted to point out that to some degree the answer to "Is it better to have specific research interests or is okay to have broad interests" also depends on how you present it.
Agreed. You always want to present as well as possible. Using well-documented social psychology principles to maximize interview skills can be helpful. For example, people like people who are interested in them and people hire people they like so show genuine interest in the work the POI is doing and you increase likelihood of getting in. People also like people who are similar to them. Mirroring tone, accent, and even posture can help with that. Much of this I actually learned in sales which is where I was working in undergrad and my masters. Minimizing anxiety or distress is an important skill too. No one buys from the nervous salesmen or hires the nervous applicant.
 
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Ceke2002

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Changing your mind, or taking your research in a different direction is not uncommon! It's also not a bad thing per se to have broad research interests, but there are both effective ways to indicate broad research interests and also less ideal ways.

For example when asked what they are interested in researching:

Applicant 1 states: Oh, you know, I'm interested in a lot of different things. Studying X seems really interesting, but studying Z also seems cool. I could do something with either I think.

Applicant 2 states: Well, I spent some time studying X as a research assistant and became really fascinated with the underlying mechanism behind when X occurs and when it does not. I think an interesting next step would be to study X under conditions Y vs. W to try and tease that apart. In some of my independent research I also have studied Z, and think it would be really interesting to explore this about Z. At least initially, however, I think that I would like to focus my research on studying X, which aligns well with the work being done by Professor Looking4astudent. [Transitions to talking about Professors research]

I've heard both types of responses. Guess who got offered a position?
Okay, I would definitely fit more with the applicant 2 description, except my speech would be delivered at a 100 miles an hour, with an overabundance of enthusiasm, and go off on so many different tangents you'd have to be frantically scrawling notes to keep up. :laugh:
 
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