Grad School Lingo & Tips

  • TA – teaching assistant
  • RA – research assistant or residence assistant
  • GA – graduate assistant
  • Thesis – Research paper completed after course work for masters degree; the length varies but could reach up 75 pages
  • Dissertation – Extensive research paper completed after course work for a doctorate; usually more in-depth than a thesis and may reach over 100 pages
  • Non-thesis option – taking 12+ additional hours as a substitute for the thesis
  • Comps – written and/or oral exams administered at the end of course work for graduate programs. Oral exams are administered by a committee of faculty members from your program. You may or may not be allowed to contribute to the composition of the committee.
  • Full load – nine hours (nine hours is a heavy load)
  • Residency requirement – required on-campus full-time residence at the university (varies by institution)
  • Reading list – materials to be read in preparation for comps
  • GSA – Graduate Student Association
  • Thesis or Dissertation Committee – faculty who “guide” the development of your thesis or dissertation
  • Major Professor or Advisor – the faculty member who most closely guides your work
  • Failing grade – a C may be considered failing; most graduate programs require students to earn A’s and B’s.
  • Go to every available library orientation meeting. Using a university library and online databases, journals and other resources are formidable tasks. Make friends with the research librarian for your area.
  • Never offend the secretary in your graduate department. Your mail may be lost; papers you need may disappear. Also, avoid offending professors. They may end up on your comps or thesis committees.

Adapted from Graduate Admissions Essays by Donald Asher (Ten Speed Press, 2000), 1-800-841-BOOK or Donald Asher, Asher Associates, San Francisco, 415-543-7130,