Saturday, November 23, 2019

Editing Graduate Students

An excellent article by a respected academic editor, Mary Rykov, in University Affairs on university perceptions of editors and editing, and why it's generally completely wrong-headed. The Dog Ate My Homework Syndrome and other Tales From an Academic Editor

The one point I would add to her excellent list of points at the conclusion of the essay is the statistic that 50% of those starting a thesis or dissertation fail to complete because they have not been taught how to manage the writing process. Professors make the (understandable) mistake of assuming that writing skills = literacy, when literacy is merely a necessary but not sufficient factor. Being able to write a brilliant term paper does not give one the skills necessary to undertake a sustained writing project, such as a thesis or dissertation. Coaching in how to handle sustained writing would see 85% of that current 50% incomplete rate graduate successfully. It is appalling to me that while students are given at least one and usually multiple courses on research methods, almost no one provides courses in thesis /dissertation writing. Howard Becker identified the problem in the early 1960s, but almost no one has paid any attention, with the result that 50% (in some disciplines, closer to 65%) never finish, even after paying tuition and foregoing income etc and working themselves into nervous wrecks for up to 9 years. A 50% failure rate is obviously a structural, systemic problem (either terrible recruitment screening or a failure to give students the tools they need to succeed) but universities have simply shrugged this off as having 'high standards' Baloney. And this isn't about second language or learning disabilities or any of that--it's because universities train people how to write first draft term papers, not how to rewrite their way through multiple drafts of a thesis.

If you're interested in this topic at all, I have a 32-page Guide to Thesis Writing Strategies that describes the problem in detail.

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