18 September 2017

Doing Things "Right"

I am doing some adjunct teaching this year and I find myself with mixed feelings about it. I find myself falling into the trap of being an English teacher, as all of the work is written. I wrote this to the students today and I thought it might be interesting to others as well.

As you are now working on your term papers, I feel the need to say a few things about research, source material, and doing things "right".

Some of you seem to be opening up Google, typing in the title of your "research" and basically restating the "click-bait" pablum that passes for technology "journalism". These should not be passed off as business-grade research in anything to which you attach your name. I hope you have a little more regard for your productive output and how you look professionally.

Internet "Best of...", "Ten Ways..", or "Twelve Tips..." articles, if read at all, should be the absolute beginning of your research effort. Please do us all the effort of "drilling down" for the real research behind the surface "noise" of the search engine top results. This means looking up that article's "sources", that source's sources, and so on, until you actually find the original material on which several layers of "Hey! look at this and my obvious conclusion" writing was ultimately based.

You may find the reading of that original research difficult, but your self-respect, the money you earn to provide for your family, and the reputations of those around you deserve real insights beyond the shallow products we see too often in the technical popular press. Also, although the mere mention of sources is technically correct and appropriately scored, your future bosses (and I) would really like to see actual *quotes* to back up your assertions from authoritative sources. I have a masters degree in this subject and I am *NOT* considered a particularly authoritative source in a term paper - Everyone feels better if they see "Ph.D." in a good number of your sources and that the title of the sources look scholarly. I am not saying that ALL your sources must look that way, but you should have more regard for your work and how it will be viewed by others. Poor, shallow research is obvious and I see it too often. Good research looks a certain way and I hope you want to be known for your use of it!

Your grade will reflect criteria met and you can put forth a pathetic effort ("I figured out the system!") and still make excellent scores and get your degree with minimal fuss. That is the story of much of my graduate work. You can do this on your term paper as well, I will give you the points you earned, and I expect some of you may do this for your own reasons, legitimate or not. If nothing else, I understand the realities of higher education and the fact that it can be easily "gamed".

Some day, I hope all of us will be capable of displaying that we actually can do things in an excellent way and show that we are fully educated people. You can do this through your term paper in this class, or somewhere else where it matters more to you and your family, but my greatest wish for all of you is that you actually *do it* someday!