Friday, July 25, 2008

The Craft of Research: The end!

Tomorrow we begin Evidence that Demands a Verdict. But you must suffer through one more day of this first...

  • Avoid these: definitions, "____ is grand," or "This is about ____."
  • Lean toward these: interesting quotes/facts, anecdotes, or a general statement (common ground).
  • State your main idea in full (if your intro only hinted at it) or fuller (if your intro was explicit).
  • OR tell your readers the practical relevance (applied implications) of your research.
  • OR tell your readers the scholarly relevance (pure implications) of your research.
  • OR end with the sort of thing you used in your intro (quote/fact). Mirror your intro.
  • Commandments: don't steal (plagiarize), don't lie (misreporting/inventing data), don't destroy (sources/data).
  • Injunctions: don't submit questionable data, don't omit unanswerable objections, don't unfairly caricature opposing views, don't deliberately muddle or oversimplify.
  • Costs of plagiarism:
    [T]he plagiarist steals some of the little...enhanced respect that a researcher spends a lifetime trying to earn. The plagiarist steals from his community of classmates by making the quality of their work seem worse by comparison and then perhaps steals again by taking one of the few good grades reserved to reward those who do good work. By choosing not to learn the skills that research can teach her, the plagiarist not only compromises her own education but steals from the larger society that devotes its resources to training students to do reliable work later.
For teachers (one of which I hope to be)
  • "The two processes, reading and writing, are mutually supporting." That was a driving idea behind the combination of my past community college's writing and reading centers.
  • Keep students from viewing research as a glorified fill-in-the-blank.
  • Features of good assignments: (1) Goals should go beyond the product. (2) Define the audience in a student-friendly/familiar way. (3) Create as much context as possible (i.e. make it relate to the students as much as possible). (4) Allow audiences for each stage (bouncing one's tentative argument off of someone else, perhaps). (5) Have a general time framework while avoiding the stage-1-stage-2-never-do-stage-1-again mentality.
Said in fewer words by ancient sages (qui docet, discet; quis scribit bis legit):
[M]aking sense of a topic for someone else is the best way to make sense of it for [the students] themselves, weeks or months later, when they discover that they have forgotten much of the information that they took for granted while they were in the midst of their reading.
What are your thoughts? Based on the types of material you, my readers, comment on, perhaps I need to relate all this blogging about research to you. Be my audience - how can I relate it to you? Speak up!

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