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Thread: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

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    Question RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

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    Hi Urch, long time lurker, first time poster....


    I have been en route to finishing a MPP degree and am currently taking on summer RA positions for two economics professors at a top 15 econ program, unknown MPP program.

    While the RA positions are both with well know economists and will hopefully provide me two LoR writers, I can't help but find the RA work to be nothing more than data cleaning. I like helping and providing assistance to my professors, but I am largely scared that this position has no value to it other than a LoR that's void of any insight to my economic skills. Has anyone else done RA work? Are my worries totally overblown, is this normal? Should I say anything?

    Thanks for any advice, I largely appreciate it .

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    A very large fraction of economic research begins with cleaning data. You're learning a valuable skill.

    In addition, one often comes up with insights about the world while looking at data. And when not insights about the world, insights about issues in the empirical analysis. If you have such insights, bring them up to your professors.

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Thank you . I think all the chatter online about the value of RAships got to me and I never delved deeper into what an RAship consists of. I am ecstatic to have these opportunities to work so closely with my professors and see the research process. Once I got into it I didn't see the academic value other than becoming a master of string variables.

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Cleaning data. That's a skill common to all PhD holders.

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by gentvenus View Post
    Cleaning data. That's a skill common to all PhD holders.

    I guess my gripe is that what signal does that even send to a PhD program? Oh this person can clean data, so what?

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Cleaning the data ain't the signal. Being creative, responsible, and showing initiative while cleaning the data is the signal.

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Most times when you clean data, there is time for analysis, critique, and suggestions. You produce a certain set of results. Is that what you expected? You know the data better than your economist in some cases, so you should be well-equipped to explain discrepancies or new tests / tasks to be applied, and to engage with them when they do instruct you to carry out certain actions.

    Professors who write you letters know that you are their RA and don't expect you to do work on par with a co-author (though sometimes that possibility arises - but not always, and that's fine). That's not what you were hired for, and that's not what they expect. But you should intentionally not be a robot that follows instructions (though you should be able to carry out the tasks well) - show creativity, insights, and ask a lot of good questions. It shows you are genuinely interested in the research, are following, and can point your professor towards where to take the research next.

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by coloradoecon View Post
    Most times when you clean data, there is time for analysis, critique, and suggestions. You produce a certain set of results. Is that what you expected? You know the data better than your economist in some cases, so you should be well-equipped to explain discrepancies or new tests / tasks to be applied, and to engage with them when they do instruct you to carry out certain actions.

    Professors who write you letters know that you are their RA and don't expect you to do work on par with a co-author (though sometimes that possibility arises - but not always, and that's fine). That's not what you were hired for, and that's not what they expect. But you should intentionally not be a robot that follows instructions (though you should be able to carry out the tasks well) - show creativity, insights, and ask a lot of good questions. It shows you are genuinely interested in the research, are following, and can point your professor towards where to take the research next.
    Got it, thank you for replying. If you're at CU, sko buffs I hope the attic where the grad students live isn't too hot !

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    Re: RAships, internships, and prospects in PhD

    Quote Originally Posted by mpp2econPHD View Post
    Got it, thank you for replying. If you're at CU, sko buffs I hope the attic where the grad students live isn't too hot !
    There's an attic filled with grad students? That sounds like a horror movie plot

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