When to Talk to Professors?

After looking at Enos’s replication files, it kind of looks like I would have to ask him for the property record data if I wanted to redo his analysis on only people who’d recently moved in, so that is, for today at least, a hard pass. Although, it probably would be easy enough to check out, if we did have the data?

This is something that I’ve struggled with throughout graduate school – when do you have enough information to meet with or talk to a professor? Is it sufficient that you have an idea about another analysis that could be run on data that you suspect they have, or that you just like a paper that they wrote? Or is it the other side of the spectrum, where you should only talk to them if you’ve completed the lit review and theory section of your paper and all you need is their expert advice and their data?

I’ve always tended towards the “never, ever speak to a professor”-side of things, but if I were to write down top five reasons I’m considering dropping out of graduate school, “Lack of Sufficient Support from Professors” would probably be number four. It isn’t a far stretch to guess that there might be some relation between these things.

I took to Google to see what The Internet had to say about when it’s appropriate to schedule meetings with professors, as a graduate student, but The Internet was disappointingly quiet on the matter. The closest I got to an answer was this:

Manage Your Advisors.

Keep your advisors aware of what you are doing, but do not bother them. Be an interesting presence, not a pest.

Stephen C. Stearns, Ph.D.

So, that’s not super encouraging. Being an “interesting presence” seems like an especially large ask.

The nice thing about being overly shy about visiting professors is that I end up catching at least some “thought gaps” before running them by someone. For instance, I just realized that I would really need to be able to compare a person’s voting record from before their move to their voting record after their move to assess whether turnout stayed the same.

We also would have to consider that people who move to a new place are just less likely to vote in that new place, in the first election (I don’t know whether this is empirically true, but it certainly sounds like it). So, we might think that we’re observing reduced turnout because someone has stopped feeling racial threat, but we might actually be observing it because they’re new in the neighborhood and haven’t really gotten their bearings.

I’m not really sure where that leaves me on this. Perhaps back at the original conclusion of my post, “On the Move”: we need a natural experiment where some people, kind of randomly picked, are forced to move, and others are not.

Maybe looking at urban renewal is the right tack, and we’re just focusing on the wrong residents?


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