And I can rest my case!

So tonight, trying to work with a graduate student on the concept for hir paper, I realized ze had not yet read the primary texts in question. Here I have been e-mailing suggestions for the secondary bibliography and the reason the student keeps wavering on hir stand and focus is that ze has not read the primary texts.

Student: I think perhaps I need to just start writing, then from what I write the actual argument I want to make will become clearer to me.

Do you see? It is pernicious. This idea of “writing before you are ready” has gone altogether too far!




Filed under News, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “And I can rest my case!

  1. And that is SO NOT what the original proponents of that doctrine (Boice et al) actually meant! They never said “don’t read” or “decide on your argument before reading”! Boice’s second rule is “Wait”—take notes, think, collect evidence, don’t rush into setting an argument in stone before you have thought it through. “Begin before you are ready” meant note-taking, recording thoughts and ideas, keep a record of your early thoughts about a project. He never, never meant “write before you have done any work.” It makes me sad to see how dreadfully his basically useful (if elementary for some) advice has been distorted in an academic game of Telephone.

  2. Z

    So: he is speaking to undergraduates and secondary school students? Or am I being cruel in wondering that? Maybe I am being unfair, since even my B.A. was a research degree, essentially. I start teaching these skills freshman year, and my senior classes are structured to literally force people to do this.

    Am I that unusual? It occurs to me that I might be, since a lot of students are more used to writing “research papers” that are really annotated bibliographies with transitions or “critical papers” that mime the professor’s ideas. Is that what it is — people really do not do these things in college / graduate coursework?

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