Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sometimes one must complain

This is one of those times.

Trivial aggravation: I'm reading this dissertation and it's not really bad, exactly--in fact, the student knows a tremendous amount and is impressively erudite--but it's just driving me crazy, because none of the 80-page chapters seem to have a central argument and the writing is frankly rather purple and why do all the critics have to be praised as "erudite" or "insightful" when they're introduced? and there are all manner of unsubstantiated claims being made--claims that plausibly could be substantiated, but they're not, so I need to keep commenting, and the commenting slows me down in doing a task that is already just boring because, again, I don't know what the central argument is.

A thesis is just so damn important.

And then you need to stay on topic, too. There's that.

This student is quite lovely in all other ways, and is not particularly interested in a research career, so the thing doesn't have to be publishable. It'll be defendable, in the end, with revision.

And s/he's done his/her research. And knows like six languages, so that's cool.

But OH MY GOD I have 48 pages to go and it's just...so...tiresome.

/end rant of the privileged.

(This is my Saturday night.)

3 comments:

Contingent Cassandra said...

Hmm. . .I may just have written a dissertation that resembles that description (though the chapters weren't quite 80 pages, even in courier. More like 40. And I definitely didn't flatter critics in my signal phrases, since I was trying to figure out how to build on and argue with two different critical traditions at once).

And if anybody had given me some substantive feedback, I would have done my best to act on it.

So your student is lucky (if also, perhaps, prolix and unfocused).

heu mihi said...

Thank you. That's a nice take on it.

This is also the first dissertation since my own that I've read in its entirety, so maybe there's just a genre issue.

It could be worse.

I'm just...maybe I need to not try to read the whole chapter tonight. Maybe THAT'S my problem.

Good Enough Woman said...

How far along in the process is she? I mean, is she still in a developmental stage that allows for major revision? As someone who just finished, I can say that I'm grateful for the training my supervisor gave me. Throughout my process, she nailed me anytime I did any of those things you mentioned, and I am a better academic and a better teacher because she did. She really hammered clarity of argument and purpose right up front--always, no matter what I was writing--and she made sure I kept it in clear sight at all times. And she was very tough on style.

But perhaps this student is running right up against the defense and has had other people waving her work along? Maybe it's too late? If it's not, I say help her if you can.

I'm sorry though. That's a tough position to be in (and a tough slog to go through). It's too bad no one helped her when she wrote the first chapter like that.