Purposive Rambling

the journey is the reward.

Archive for the ‘Coursework’ Category

Writing Reviews

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There’s a discussion going on over at scatterplot about the ethics of letting grad students help out with paper reviews. It seems that the general consensus is that you should ask the editor to be safe, and that it’s an incredibly important socialization experience for grad students. As a grad student, I wholeheartedly agree with this last point.

Last semester I took a course that was all about the writing process. All students in our program are required to take the course at least once, and many end up taking it multiple times. Everyone comes in with a work-in-progress, and one of the goals is to get the paper in publishable-shape by the end of the semester. My paper is not quite there, but it will be soon, and it has come a LONG way since the beginning of last semester. Along with working on our own papers and giving each other feedback, we also talked about the basics of writing academically, the difficulties of writing, and what the publishing process is like.

As part of our discussion on getting published, we did some reviewing. Our professor received permission from a colleague to share her journey to getting a paper published. This colleague allowed us to see all of the drafts, reviews of those drafts, and her/his comments back to reviewers. Before we saw others’ reviews, though, we wrote our own. I had no idea what a review was supposed to look like. And my first stab at it was pretty terrible. I found out that I was way too nit-picky. I wanted to point out every little thing that I wished the author would change. When I stepped back from it and thought about how I would react to a review like the one I had just written, I realized I was being pretty harsh. It wasn’t my paper, and there should be some room for your own style.

The reviewer’s job is more about determining whether the paper makes a contribution and whether it is free of big theoretical, methodological, and analytical gaps and flaws. Writing our own reviews and then being able to compare them to the actual reviews for that paper, and then seeing all the work that this author had to do to move forward from the reviews was incredible. Seeing the process from start to finish really demystifies it. It’s easy to feel inadequate when you just read the final published product, but no papers start off that way. They have a long journey from conception to publication.

After doing the fake review, I was asked to do a real review for a journal. I felt so much more prepared and confident in my ability to comment on this paper after having had this class last semester. I really enjoyed doing the review. It was really neat to feel like I was playing an instrumental role in making someone else’s scholarship better. I can’t wait to do the next one! But in the meantime, I should probably¬†focus on getting my own paper published.


Written by Lisa

May 29, 2009 at 6:27 pm

Classroom courtesy: Not just for undergrads

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The most common complaints that I hear from grad student assistants and instructors regard undergrad students’ inappropriate behavior in the classroom. They’re texting, reading the newspaper, talking with a friend, listening to music, sleeping, showing up late, etc.

And, sure, these things happen in undergraduate classes. When I was an undergrad, I was the girl in the front of the room always raising her hand. So, I didn’t notice that stuff then.

Now that I’m an instructor, I think about it a little more. I even have a little “classroom courtesy” section on my syllabus. My spiel to my students was something to the effect of: “I know you all are sometimes doing things that could be distracting to fellow students or just annoying to me. Keep it to a minimum, and please don’t let me see it.”

I don’t see a need to be a hard-ass about it, because my guess is that they’ll do this stuff regardless of what I say. But I do find it disrespectful, and I’d rather not have to think about being disrespected when I’m trying to give a lecture.

Anyway, the thing is, recently I’ve begun to feel like a lot of graduate students are hypocritical when it comes to good classroom behavior.

The other day I was sitting in class – one that I am taking, not teaching – and I glanced around the room at my classmates. I see a lot of faces just staring off into space. And, I see someone sleeping! Plus, the folks with laptops are doing way too much typing to just be taking notes. This is a fairly small classroom with long, seminar-type tables. For a graduate class it’s fairly large, but it’s still only about 20 students.

To be fair, I was bored too. I was doodling on my paper. And I was looking around at people trying to distract myself from my boredom. The difference is that I didn’t totally check out, and I didn’t let myself appear as if I was bored. I feel very strongly that it’s important to not act rude toward someone who is taking the time to teach me something. I’d like the instructor to look out into the people in front of her and see that I am making eye contact with her, that I am listening, that I care about what she is saying, that I am interested, etc. And when she asks a question, I don’t want to be drifted so far out to la-la land that I can’t answer.

Another¬†thing I have noticed about graduate students is that they’re late. We tell our students to show up on time and not to leave early. Some instructors will even consider students absent if they are too tardy to class. But repeatedly, I see graduate students doing the same thing. And sometimes with no explanation to the instructor. And it’s so much more obvious in a small grad class. You can’t exactly slip out the back door with no one noticing.

The point is, in general, graduate students are probably more interested in what’s going on in the classroom than undergraduate students are. Supposedly, we’re here for the knowledge and not just the degree. Not to say that is not the case for some undergraduate students, but you get my point. So if we can’t even stick to these common courtesies in our classes, how are we expecting our students to do so?

Also, I think there is another issue here that grad students should think about. For many undergrads, once a course is over their relationship with the instructor is also over. Not true for grad students. The professor who has seen you sleeping through her class is going to be a part of your life for several more years. And she might even talk to other faculty members about your rude behavior. Not good.

Written by Lisa

February 7, 2009 at 8:40 am