Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問
The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I write well I am told, but my papers are faulted for being “superficial.” How do I know when I have researched a topic deeply enough to satisfy my professor’s need for in-depth analysis and presentation?

Unfortunately, I cannot answer that definitively because in all probability I don’t know your professor. A level of research that satisfies your professor might be deemed overkill by another professor or insufficient by a third. Besides, some topics have voluminous amounts of material available for probing while other topics are a slim volume on the library shelf. Still, some general expectations exist for academic researchers. The general one is that a paper should give evidence of being complete—that is, it should be without loose ends, unanswered questions, and holes.

Sometimes a researcher gives himself a superficial topic, unwittingly or on purpose. This makes it difficult to do in-depth research because the pool of available information is quite shallow. Conversely, sometimes a chosen topic is so deep and wide that a researcher cannot completely explore it without producing a book. Therefore, it is important to wisely pick and frame a topic. Next, a writer should brainstorm a topic’s chief facets. Even if this initial mental outline is not conclusive, it guides a writer as he plumbs a topic. Guided research is less apt to miss something.

Finally, an academic researcher must know himself or herself. It is not a question of character or intellect, but of mindset and habit. Ask yourself: How inquisitive am I? Am I content to offer a generally correct answer or do I want to indisputably pin down the facts? The latter thinking characterizes the best researcher. Again, how thorough am I? Am I OK with lightly surveying a topic or do I want to examine it in detail? A survey, after all, tends to be wider than it is deep. To produce a paper of depth and completeness, a researcher must be geared for the work.

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