Some hints for the transition from a undergraduate student to a graduate student:
First, you must get rid of some old habits that you may have acquired while preparing for the endless exams in your high school and college era. For examples:
- Don’t fight a difficult problem alone in your research process. Ask people if that helps you solve the problem quicker. Remember, this is no longer an exam, and you are now allowed to ask for help.
- A commonly made mistake when a graduate student writes her/his first technical paper is to dump all her/his knowledge or whatever she or he has done so far to the paper writing. Remember, the key point of a good paper is to convey a good idea to the readers, not to show off how knowledgeable you are. Also, don’t give half-hearted effort in your paper writing. You don’t get partial credit for dumping whatever you know to the paper.
- “Write something every day.” This is the advice I learned from Prof. Fred Brooks at UNC. In college entrance exams, your achievement was measured by the sum of your scores in various subjects, like Math, English, Physics, Chemistry, and Chinese. A fallacy in that scheme is that you could improve your ranking by working on one subject alone. However, in the graduate school (and beyond), you may find that your achievement is measured by a mysterious equation that is more like the product (i.e. multiplication) of your hard work in solving the problem (e.g. research and implementation) and your technical writing and presentation. You get no credit if you have solved a extremely hard problem and tell no one.