ENGLISH 101. ACADEMIC WRITING
Discussion for Lesson 4
Student X. I've already got a grammar book, so why do I need to buy another one?
Dr. G. Nearly all of my corrections on your writing assignments will refer to lookups in Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual. If you don't have the book, you probably won't know what my complaints are about, so you will be likely to make the same mistakes repeatedly.
Student A. I liked reading the research section in the Hacker book because i usually just use Google's search engine when researching something, and i always get way too many hits than i can ever read. She gave other places to go to get information, plus giving ideas for how to decrease the amount of hits you get and narrowing the search to exactly what you want.
Good and Bad Sources
Student K. I think the best place to look for sources for academic research is at a local college library. I just happen to work in one of the libraries at Cornell and I know that you can find pretty much anything you need here. You can also find works by university scholars and academics who have made a career out of studying specific areas.
Dr. G. Our TC3 Library is miniscule compared to Cornell's, and yet because of interlibrary loan TC3 students like Cornell students have access to nearly every book in print. Our TC3 librarians also are very helpful. Notice on the TC3 Library web site, there's a feature "ask a librarian" where students can email questions and receive email replies from librarians.
Student J. For my topic most of the sources seem to be newspaper articles.
G. If you research current events, newspapers may be the most numerous sources, or the only sources, available. An article that is proposed for publication in a scholarly journal must make the rounds of "peer review" to editorial board members or other experts for input, revision suggestions, and eventual approval. In some disciplines, this review process can drag out for years before an article actually appears in print! It's a little different than in the news business! Staleness is guaranteed.
If your search is turning up only newspaper articles, an alternative is to look at your topic and search terms more creatively. What related areas have professional researchers explored? If not the US occupation of Iraq or Afghanistan, what about Bosnia or post WWII Germany? Or what about the British occupation of Iraq in the last century? It's often possible to find good sources by tweaking the research question.
Student E. You guys sometime wonder if the US media is lying to us, about whats going on over in Iraq? They tell us what is going on but not the whole extent of it. Howcome we don't focus on the deaths of our soldiers over in Iraq? More and more soldiers keep dying. The media doesn't talk about our soldiers deaths as much as we should know. More than a soldier a day has died since we invaded. What is a suitable body count for the administration?
G. Good questions. The little TV coverage I saw today had a 10 second read on the death of a soldier overnight; this blurb was followed by about three minutes of film coverage of our CIA Director discussing his investigation of prewar intelligence about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. It looked to me as if the administration was in firm control of the news flow; the network sent their reporting crew to the media event in Washington for coffee and an easy scoop, rather than to the front lines.... Of course, I don't mean to suggest I'm for or against the war or the administration or even the media. My job is simply to ask questions and stimulate what thinking I can. All political and social views should be freely expressed in this course.
Student J. In general the media prefers fresh news stories more than ongoing stories. Fresh stories are what "sell" the news. For the media, soldiers’ dying every day in Iraq has become a fact of life, just like the number of murders committed each day. They also prefer stories that are controversial, like the CIA Director discussing prewar intelligence.
Student K. Television and print media are into ratings just like any other "entertainment industry." They know that if they don't keep the news exciting and controversial people will switch to a station that does. The more they can shock you the better off they are.
Student L. NPR has body counts daily. Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" is all over this stuff. You might as well give your TV to Goodwill. I haven't owned one in 20 years.
ProQuest and Database Searches
Student T. I liked the ProQuest site because almost every article I read seemed sound. This is unlike Google, where you can end up with text from anywhere.
Dr. G. True! Google and Yahoo and their like are simply search engines, not data bases. They screen the internet on the basis of site popularity and commercial interests. (They send traffic to company sites where the site owners have paid them.) ProQuest, InfoTrac and the databases in the library are different in that these companies have subscribed to publications that they believe have some value. Other sources are excluded, no matter how popular they may be. The customers of these data base companies are research based organizations, especially colleges and universities.
Student Y. I found Proquest very hard and frustrating to use. It took me many hours to figure out how they were organizing. Once I got used to it, it had alot of useful information. But I must say that there were alot of newspaper articles which can't be reliable at times.
G. Take the library database tutorial--it will save you search time and improve your search results. Your comment on newspapers is extremely important. Just because you find a source in an academic database doesn't mean that it's a good or reliable source. ProQuest and other academic databases are full of gems and rubbish. You have to figure out which is which.
Student Y. In ProQuest it's hard to find a reliable source and information about the publisher...
G. When all you have is the title of the periodical in an online database, it can be hard to tell whether it's a scholar journal (that Dr. G will love) or a popular magazine (that he will hate). When you're in a physical library it's a lot easier to tell. You can look at the publication and see almost instantly who it's aimed at. Also, if in doubt, you can ask a librarian and get an expert answer. There's a simple rule of thumb that you can use in any case. If your source discloses its sources, using footnotes or end notes or at least a works cited list, it's going to be more or less academically acceptable. If it does NOT cite chapter and verse, odds are it's a popular source that academics will not regard highly.
Student L. I have a couple of hints on researching in ProQuest. First of all, hit on were is says Scholarly Journals, because if you do not, you will find MANY newspaper articles which do not say much. Also, try using articles that do not talk of something that occurred, but that explains the topic you are researching. Most of the articles begin with an experience of news, so you might have to read a little bit to see what the article is about. Also, do not depend fully on the summary that ProQuest provides you, because it helps a bit, but in many cases, does not really provide you with a summary, just with a general idea of the author´s main ideas in the article. Finally, research your author using google. It is amazing the great amount of information you can find on an author´s name. Therefore, you might even get a better idea on why you chose the article and why you think that it is not biased.
Diogenes the Cynic
Student J. I wonder if Diogenes would have nothing to do with the Academy because the Truth did not come first?
Dr. G. If you read about Diogenes in any encyclopedia, he will be described as a kind of wild animal who didn't believe in any of the ways of civilized people. The article probably will tell how he lived in a tub and committed sex acts in public like a dog. In my studies I happened to learn that this standard information (or misinformation) about Diogenes originally came from Diogenes' rivals at the Academy. Diogenes didn't teach at the Academy; he taught a mile or so away, in downtown Athens. He was a disciple of one of Socrates' students--Antisthenes--but this Antisthenes had been antagonistic to Plato. He wrote as many books as Plato (though they are now lost), and he apparently emphasized Socrates' skepticism where Plato emphasized Socrates' idealism.
In other words, there was strong rivalry among the students of Socrates, and as the separate groups formed separate schools, each school tried to claim that it represented the authentic message of Socrates--and that its rivals didn't understand Socrates at all. This situation is rather like early Christianity, where there were many churches, each one vying to be regarded as the true church, and many of them trying to characterize the others as heretical.
So who was Diogenes? Almost everything that we think we know about him came from his competitors. The encyclopedia articles aren't trustworthy because they're based on biased information. Encyclopedia articles on Socrates perhaps will be only a little better because they're based mainly on Plato's views of Socrates.
you become more scholarly, more and more of the information about your
field in the encyclopedia may begin to look doubtful to you. You may
recognize more and more clearly that what passes for knowledge isn't