Tuesday, October 05, 2010

On Task

When I was writing my dissertation, I turned in an early chapter for a grad seminar I was taking, to a professor who wasn't on my committee in any way. That professor, though, took the time to really read the chapter, and suggested a revision strategy that brought out the argument of the chapter way better. It was the best response to a piece of my writing I ever got, more insightful and revision oriented than any other, ever.

When I read advanced student work, I try to model myself on that professor. I try hard not to want to make the argument mine, but to help the student revise the argument to make it more effective at what s/he seems to be wanting to get at.

Tonight, I think I did a pretty good job. I suggested a reorganization, one that will be fairly simple to undertake, but that will restructure the whole in a way I think will be more effective. And I suggested that the student is trying to focus on X, Y, and Z, and if I'm right, the student should revise so that X, Y, and Z come through in the introduction and in ever section of the work.

The work is far smarter than I made it seem in my biking analogy earlier today, and I think with revision will pull away from the things that bothered me and get stronger as an argument.

It's weird, though, because I'm not the last word, and I sent my response to the last word person and the student both, so that they can both see. And now I feel sort of anxious that the last word person won't shake his/her head about what a total idiot I am and how could I possibly suggest what I did.


  1. Peter7:50 PM

    Well, that's lovely, and very gratifying to make a valuable contribution (and I'm sure it will be seen as such).

    Pity, though: I was sort of relishing the post about how mourning the inability to use the technology as an artifact of patriarchy still leaves the mourner within patriarchy rather than mounting a challenge by accepting the otherness and rejection that some other, apparently recumbent and therefore apparently nonpatriarchal technology offers.

    Anyway, how about a post revisiting the original perception that the piece was misplaced in motive (mere frustration with the technology) or analysis (failure to subvert)? I think I can tow along behind the extended bike conceit, if necessary (I have to say, I'm super itchy to know what we're really talking about, but at least I'd rather have bike metaphors than basket weaving metaphors, which seem to be webiquitous.

  2. if the last word person is a jackass, your advice will be even more helpful. it sounds like you struck the right note in a complicated situation, and if someone wants to discuss it further, you'll do well by the student. which is what matters.

  3. I'm involved with our honors program, which means I read a lot of theses outside my field. I am consistently happily surprised to discover professors really do all think alike. We prioritize differently, but we rarely find each other off base.