4 Characteristics of a Scholar # 2– Am I a skimmer? 學者的四個特質之二:我做學問是否有如蜻蜓點水?

At some point, an academic writer should ask a fundamental question: Am I a scholar? Pursuit of an academic career will be in vain if a person is ill-suited for academia. Even students who are just passing through the realm are wise to examine if they are a good fit for academic scholarship. If not, the academic writing will forever be fitful and the writer frustrated. Hereafter are ways to examine thyself.

Characteristic # 2: Am I a skimmer?

If there is an adjective that is found in any description of a scholar it is "deep," as in, "She is a deep thinker." The word is pretentious when used that way, yet it describes a necessary condition for any person claiming to be a scholar. For embedded in any scholarly work is the concept of depth. True exploration of a topic in an academic paper always involves diving below the surface. Genuine academic exploration absolutely requires a researcher to mine the topical substrata. Skimming a topic won't do.

A skimmer is the antithesis of a scholar. Yes, there is value in being able to skim pertinent facts from research material, to evaluate a paper in a cursory way and accurately determine its value to a project. An hour wasted plumbing extraneous material is a baneful exercise for a researcher. But any scholar with deep understanding of a subject can quickly determine the worth of research material. The opposite does not hold true: One cannot be an academic skimmer and develop such insight about material.

So the successful scholarly pursuit of knowledge requires a scholar to be "all in" to a project. He must commit to follow threads of information wherever they may lead him. If they plunge into tomes of centuries past, plunge ahead. If they connect with tangential paths of inquiry, evaluate the detours. Determining beforehand just how far and wide a lead will be pursued can be a fatal mistake, for it can preclude new findings and original theories. Don't let the unexpected stop your search. That's what skimmers do.


Posted at 2014-08-04 22:40:18

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