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Interested in research, not in coursework

Course Queries Syllabus Queries

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( 3 months ago )

I am in the last semester of my undergraduate degree in computer science. I plan to apply for masters and PhD positions thereafter. I did not have a good classroom experience in my bachelor's programme – I did not find my professors to be great (in terms of knowledge, research or teaching). As a result, I soon lost interest in my courses [1]. To be fair, many of my peers enjoyed the very same courses and excelled in them due to their interest.

Due to these experiences, I am not interested in doing courses further – I also realised that I learn much better on my own and while doing research. On my own, I don't have to stick to a curriculum decided by someone else and can move in and out of material, as required by my research, which would otherwise span a wide variety of courses. Thus, I am partial to programmes offering full-time research opportunities with little to no coursework.

A large part of my research has involved reading papers on new techniques and figuring out how these techniques worked, how they were implemented, reimplementing them myself, etc. This required a fair bit of figuring things out by myself, which I found to be very different from coursework – where you had a professor, TAs, tutors, office hours, etc which provided an extensive support system.

My question is, how closely are research and coursework linked in academia? Would it raise eyebrows if I were to say to someone in academia "I like doing research, but dislike doing coursework"?

Now as I understand, through my SOP I have an opportunity to convince the admissions committee about why I am a good fit for this programme and vice versa. In such a scenario, I am very tempted to include the following points in my argument, because they are absolutely true and form the crux of why I am interested in such programmes (primarily applying in the US):

  • I dislike doing coursework.

  • I have quite a bit of research experience where I have performed well without doing coursework.

  • I learn better on my own and while doing research, as my research experience shows.

  • This programme will allow me to pursue research uninhibited by distracting courses, which is exactly what I want.

But this is where I am confused. Will this unabashed honesty work in my favour? This is primarily because the vast majority of researchers I have interacted with happen to be professors – and as such have been very involved in teaching courses. Moreover, since they do spend a fair amount of their time teaching, they also invite students who do well in their courses to join their research. Now I understand there are also independent research organisations who are not directly involved in teaching, but the ones which I have had the experience of working with have invariably been associated with a partner university and involved in sharing of researchers, professors and students.

[1] Due to the vast number of questions on this site regarding grades, I wish to categorically state that this question is not about addressing bad grades. Indeed, I don't wish to address this issue at all because although I was not very excited with my coursework, I made average grades and directly dived into various research endeavours. This allowed me to accumulate substantial research experience and include impressive research positions on my resume, including a prestigious scholarship. This, I believe, already compensates my not-so-good grades (as I have received offers from reputed research institutes based on this profile). My question is only about the aspect of 'not liking coursework'.

what's your interest