An epiphany that made me slap myself

Posted: March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

I’ve been dragging my feet with my dissertation. That said, my prospectus meeting hasn’t happened yet (so the prospectus isn’t officially approved) and I already have about a dozen pages.

But I’ve still been dragging my feet. I’ve been questioning the academic methods and railing against them. I wanted to say something new, not just rehash what others have said. I hated the idea that I had to quote so many people, that I had to write a thirty page literature review. I wanted MY words, not someone else’s.

It’s kind of childish, really. And I knew it was. I knew I was bitching for no good reason, and that while I wanted to be able to have my own words be the proof of my brilliance (or at least expertise), that wasn’t the real problem. That being said, I STILL didn’t want to do it.

At least, not until I taught my class about the use of quotations in argument. That’s when I had the epiphany. The one that made me want to slap myself.I was telling my students that quotes do not make the arguments. Quotes support the argument. I’ve said that for years, but I’m not sure it ever got through to anyone. Largely because I don’t think I ever put it the right way. I never told them that the real point of research, the real value of citation and quoting, is to establish YOUR credibility. It’s to prove that you know what you’re talking about. That you’ve considered the various points of view, that you’re a part of the conversation, and so what you are saying has strength. Has value. Your word MATTERS.

I mentally kicked myself even as I was saying it. That’s why we do literature reviews. It’s not bragging, and it’s not having other people make the arguments for us. The point of the literature review is to SHOW your readers that your opinion should hold weight. That you are part of the conversation and know what you’re talking about. And we put the literature review separate in the dissertation so that it can be all in one place. You can show that you have credibility, and then ride on that for the rest of the dissertation.

I imagine most of you are kind of confused right now, wondering what the big deal is. And there isn’t one. It’s an obvious thing, something I should have known (something I DID know), but that I was in denial about. It was a stupid thing to have to realize, but I had to. So what does that say about me?

Don’t answer that.

I still hate doing them, but at least now I have REASON to do a lit review.

  1. Brendan says:

    “I never told them that the real point of research, the real value of citation and quoting, is to establish YOUR credibility. ”

    I also use this point to help establish why the nature of the source matters (for undergrad writers). If you quote Wikipedia, your credibility is in the toilet. You’re quoting to show how those people support you, so don’t pick losers. 😀

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