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Research, as your discipline defines it, will–of course–make up a very important part of your graduate program, whether you are pursuing a master’s degree or a doctorate.  In some cases, you will be pursuing your own original research program, while in others you may be a part of a lab or contributing to a mentor’s research.  The act of doing research is certainly professional training for your future career, but it is so much more than this as well.  Constructing and disseminating new knowledge is one of the most important roles played by colleges and universities in today’s society, and you are playing your own part in this through your research.

As you move through your program, though, it is easy to get caught up in the process of researching without thinking very much about the outcomes of research and its ultimately public nature.  It is important, though, to spend time focusing on the presentation of your research as well, because this allows you to take part in the larger dialogue within your field.  There are many ways in which research is made public, and here are a few:

  • Grants.  When you are a part of a grant, you are not only involved in presenting work to the review committee, but publication is often an explicitly stated outcome of the grant.
  • Publications in peer-reviewed outlets.  In many fields, publications in peer-reviewed outlets (e.g., books and journals) is the gold standard for research.  You should be thinking about publications from the moment you begin your graduate program for two reasons:  1) if your goal is eventually to attain a faculty position (or another kind of academic/research position), you will need to have peer-reviewed publications in order to be competitive on the market; and 2) you can start to shape the work you are doing in your graduate program with the goal of publication in mind.
  • Conferences.  Conferences are essential not only as a venue for presenting your work, but also for the professional networking opportunities they afford.  In some fields, particularly the sciences, conference abstracts and/or proceedings are peer-reviewed and immensely valuable.

Depending on your field, you may need to work closely with Mason’s Institutional Review Board or its Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee over the course of your program.  If you are involved with grants, the Office of Sponsored Programs will also be a useful resource.  Finally, the Graduate Fellowships office is very helpful in assisting you with locating and applying for other types of funding.