The Grad Syllabus

Here’s a preview of what we’ll be covering this year in Grad School: The Secret Syllabus. The final list is subject to adjustment, but it should give a pretty good sense.

Because participants are joining the program at all different stages, we will NOT be proceeding in exact order. That is to say: I will be making tutorials available from across this syllabus, a little bit here and there. By the close of the program, however, this is what you can expect (along with many other posts, interviews, and hopefully a number of live online events, Covid and daycare permitting).

For those of you in the College or Tenure program, I will be creating a dedicated page for you as well, to make things easier to navigate. At the same time, I’ll continue to post a lot of material here on the home page.

NOTE: Any tutorials below featuring a hyperlink mean that the tutorial is already online and ready to view!

Welcome to the Course

Applying to Grad School

Please refer to the syllabus for College: The Secret Syllabus (coming soon)

Absolute Beginners

  • The Summer Before Grad School Begins
  • Phd Application Statement of Purpose: A Metaphor
  • First Year Chaos
  • Helping Your Potential Advisor Advocate for You
  • How to Research Potential Advisors (Proquest Trick)
  • No One Remembers Your Application
  • Starting Attending Job Talks Now! (Here’s Why)

Working with Your Advisor

  • Advising Your Advisor on How to Advise
  • How Often to Meet With Your Advisor

Getting Your Research Off the Ground

  • “That Was Then. Diss is Now.” (Read as many dissertations as books!)
  • One Note, One Card: Back to Basics
  • Meet a Librarian (Now)
  • Figuring Out How to Speak about Your Research (before you know what it really is)


  • How to Choose Courses in Grad School
  • Methodological Promiscuity
  • Don’t Max Out Credits
  • Transferring MA Credits
  • Language Training
  • Summer Courses
  • Start Reading for Orals… Now
  • Your First Research Paper
  • From Proposal to Final Paper
  • Independent Study/Directed Reading Beware
  • Critique Like a Writer
  • Getting Feedback from Profs (“You Need to Learn to Write Better” story)

Orals and Comps

  • Auditioning Faculty to Be on Your Committee
  • Briefing Memos
  • How to Practice for Orals
  • What is Orals For, Anyway?
  • How to Begin Every Orals Exam Answer

Emotional and Mental Health

  • Mental Health Begins Now
  • Losing Your Advisor

Your First TAship

  • Creating a Section Syllabus
  • Working with Your TA Course Faculty
  • Your First Course Evaluation
  • Paying the Price for a Crappy Prof: What to Do with Bad Evaluations
  • Unionization

Social Media for Grad Students

  • TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube for Grad Students
  • Creating a Professional Website

The Second Year

  • The Summer Before Year 2
  • Sophomore Slump
  • When to Start a Secret Life
  • On-Campus or Off? Where to Live
  • Doubts
  • Your Secret Life

Networking and Relationships

  • Having a Child in Grad School
  • Dating in Grad School
  • A Death in the Family
  • Physical Fitness
  • Mental Health Redux
  • How (and Why) to Avoid Cliques
  • Meet a 6th Year and Ask Advice
  • Activism, On and Beyond Campus

Conferences, Workshops, and Writing Groups

  • Conferences: When to Apply for the First Time?
  • How (and Why) to Form a Writing Group

Fellowships and Grants

  • How to Write a Statement of Purpose
  • Letters of Recommendation: How and When to Ask for Them

The Dissertation

  • The Contours of a Dissertation?
  • Time to Completion
  • Switching Dissertation Topics

Filing and Defending

  • The Defense
  • To Embargo or Not to Embargo?
  • Do This Right After Your Defense
  • When to Approach Editors

Please refer to the syllabus for Tenure: The Secret Syllabus (coming soon)

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