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Eureka: A rant against university professors
by Joseph Gatt
2018-08-05 05:43:25
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Things a lot of university professors say, and what they should really say.

They say: you don't know what a paper is.

What they should say: Do you know what a paper is? No? OK, let me help you and let me tell you what a paper is. You think of a problem or a question you want to answer. You google up the literature to find out what other people said in the past about the problem or how others tried to solve the problem. You design a method to answer a question. The method could be synthesizing what other researchers have said in the past, your field observations on the problem, interviews that you have with people, an experiment you might conduct, statistics you might analyze, or a mixture of all those. Then you write down the findings and answer the questions or problems you posed at the beginning of the paper.

proffe01_400They say: this is not a thesis

What they should really say: My bad for not teaching you what a thesis is. There is absolutely no conventional definition of a thesis, and theses come in all forms, sizes and shapes. But the idea when you write a thesis is to read a few books on a topic, identify gaps or problems that have not been solved yet. You then dig deeper and try to search around the literature to see if anyone has addressed those gaps. You then identify the problems of questions, design a methodology to conduct you research, gather and analyze your data, and then write down the findings.

They say: you should never mention your personal opinions in an academic paper

What they should really say: There is no conventional mode for a thesis and an opinion thesis can be written but you should clearly state that it's your personal opinion and not the collection and analysis of neutral data. That is if you hate the Jews, think that new age Buddhism is not Buddhism, think that governments are corrupt or hate president Trump, you should clearly state that it is your personal opinion. But because this is a graduate thesis and that some professionalism is expected, it's a better idea to look at both sides of the story then to decide what side of the story you stand on. If you hate Jews, you should look at what the Jews are saying. If you think new age Buddhism is not Buddhism, you should at least try to look at what new age Buddhists themselves say about their practices. If you think politicians are corrupt, you should perhaps find out what they really think about corruption.

They say: your thesis is biased

What they should really say: I see that there is some bias in the data you gathered and analyzed. You collected date from one source but not from the other. Why don't you go and collect data from the other source that would perhaps make your thesis less biased.

They say: you should never use convenience sampling when you collect data

What they should really say. If you want to use convenience sampling, there's nothing that doesn't allow you to. But you want to clearly specify that you're using convenience sampling. We could have a 48 hour debate about whether startified sampling really does represent the local population, but if you want to use convenience sampling, go for it.

They say: Go check what other people have written in their thesis and do the same thing

What they should really say: no two theses are alike. Everyone has their own quirks when writing theses. And if I as a professor had nothing to be ashamed of, I would give you a copy of my thesis and tell you that you can design your thesis the way I designed mine.

They say: when people read your paper or thesis, they won't understand

What they should really say; let me be blunt. The only ones who will read your thesis are perhaps a couple of members of the thesis committee, and only your adviser will have read through it thoroughly. Your family will read the acknowledgments section, and if you're lucky one or two people will read your thesis cover to cover in the next hundred years or so.

They say: you're not smart enough to graduate

What they should really say: you've read books that I haven't read and I've read books that you haven't read. In the 1950s, intelligence was measured by your ability to memorize course materials. In the 1980s, professors plagiarized tests from ETS or Kaplan books and often they themselves did not know the answers to the questions and had to look up the answer sheet to be able to verify answers. Today, professors tell students to write papers that they give to their TA for correction, the TA never really reads them and assigns grades based on random factors like whether there are visible typos or whether the title of the paper sounds cool. No one's perfect.

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