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 have reread my last paper, which was graded low by my instructor for being shallow, and I guess he is right. How do I know when I am writing a deep paper as opposed to a shallow one?

You seem genuinely interested in learning the difference between depth and shallowness in a scholarly paper. I wonder, though, why interest in these characteristics is blooming so late. Curiosity should be a trademark of someone entering the academic writing learning level. That is what separates scholars from the reluctantly schooled. A scholar is so curious about a subject that he is driven to explore it completely, rather than to skim it for just enough information to satisfy a requirement. It is impossible to skim a topic and come away with an in-depth report.

So become curious and let your intellect lead you deeper into a subject. However, to manage your curiosity in researching a paper, it is necessary to plan well. That is because a preliminary outline does not allow for discoveries made during research. If you are preparing a paper on Xinzheng, for example, and learn of the unearthed 4,000-year-old Xia dynastic capital in the city limits, your research path must zig and zag to incorporate the ancient material. The uncurious person considers such discovery a distraction; the curious researcher considers it enrichment.

Think of your paper as a layered cake. Obvious and easily collected information is the frosting. It looks good but is thin. An instructor should be able to open your paper and beneath the frosting find two or three layers of cake—that is, two or three levels of content that might not be as sweet as the covering layer but is considerably more textured and satisfying. If your professor is given a thick frosting on a one-layer cake, no wonder he grumbles. You can’t build a multilayered paper unless you are curious, committed to thorough research, and open to discovery.

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