May 5, 2021
Here are some tips with fairly broad applicability to research students, closer to “life hacks” that will save you time than actual life advice.
(I’ve found that advice more often reflects the experiences of the giver than the needs of the receiver, so reading unpersonalized advice on the Internet can be very hit-or-miss. But, if you’re a Berkeley econ grad student, or interested in econ grad school in general, I’m happy to chat. DM me on Twitter or shoot me an email and we can set up a time.)
- At the start of First Year, set up Zotero with Zotfile to manage citations automatically (Robert Karl has a great YouTube tutorial on how to do this). Getting the setup right may take an hour or two, but it will pay for itself in time twice or thrice over by third year. Every time you read a paper for class, or for your own interest, drop the PDF into a Zotero folder. Zotero can automatically generate the citation info, sort it into the right folder, and even rename the file based on a preset template—and it’ll all be there when you need to assemble a bibliography.
- Install MathPix Tools to copy equations from PDFs into LaTeX. It can even handle handwritten text through optical character recognition (OCR). In terms of time, this must have the highest returns of any tip I can give.
- Berkeley-specific:: You can reserve a study carrel at Doe Library, where you can leave books and research materials. This is especially useful for the first year history paper, so you don’t have to lug a stack of books everywhere you go. Plus, they’ll put a sticker with your name on it, so it guarantees a quiet space where you can work.
- Berkeley dev students: If you’re going to the field for the summer, before you leave, make sure you get all Berkeley residency paperwork squared away. I have more info about this on my Busia tips page.
- Berkeley-specific: In my view, one of Berkeley’s “secret weapons” is the Undergrad Research Assistant Program (URAP), where you can hire undergrad RAs in exchange for course credit and (crucially) mentorship. I’ve had great experiences with the RAs I’ve worked with, who have helped me digitize/clean historical data and do some preliminary data analysis. Having weekly meetings with your RAs is also a great way to force yourself into a regular schedule, and make steady progress on data-intensive projects.
- Berkeley-specific: If you’re interested in economic history, and you feel like the existing course options don’t cover areas you’re interested in, it’s possible to set up a reading course in your second year with a professor. I did one on East Asian economic development with Brad DeLong and Barry Eichengreen, and it was a fascinating experience that set up a lot of my later research. In retrospect, it’s kind of amazing blessing to have more faculty than students in a room, studying whatever it is the student finds interesting.
- Berkeley-specific: The “end product” of 3rd year is your orals presentation, where you present in-progress work (that, ex ante, may hopefully be your JMP) to a group of four faculty members. A common expectation among orals chairs is that you turn in a 25 page paper with your presentation–something I was unaware of until a month before it was due. So, you know, plan for that.
- I’ll let you know when I get there…
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