March 16, 2009

A letter from someone else's Stu Dent

I generally don't write about students I am currently teaching. I will occasionally write about events months or years later, but generally not in the same semester. But I have an e-mail this morning from someone else's Stu Dent:

Hi I am from England, currently studying a [type of] degree in [field]. For my last piece of work, we have a 3000 individual project to complete. My project is trying to answer this hypothesis: [hypothesis in a field far from mine]. I have found some recent statistics which have your name attached: [what follows is a statement I don't recognize]. Unfortunately I found this data a few months ago, and did not reference it properly. I would be extremely grateful if you could send me a link where you got this information from, or send me a link to your document showing this information.... Thank you, Stu Dent

Dear Stu, Looking closely at your e-mail, I will confess that your statement is entirely unfamiliar to me, and I don't think I've ever written those words.

Good luck with your project. It's designed so that YOU do the hard work of research because it's in your best interest as a student. So I'd be undercutting the whole point of the project if I didn't give you the chance to learn from it by doing it entirely by yourself.

This is not nearly as bad as graduate students who spam an e-mail list saying, "Please complete this survey online" or any student who writes, "I'm writing on X [very well-studied] topic; can anyone help me with the literature?" But you think that in an upper-level course in any program, students would still have learned that it's their job to do the research. And if you're going to contact a faculty member at another institution, you think that there might be some value in looking to see if the faculty member is an expert in what you're studying. Sigh.

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Tags: research
Posted in The academic life on March 16, 2009 9:14 AM |