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 submitted a paper on the integrity of Oedipus. My professor gave it a low grade, saying it lacked “rigor.” I know what “rigor” means, but the professor evidently has a different definition. What characterizes academic rigor?

The “integrity of Oedipus” reminds me of an old joke about the congeniality of kumquats, but I won’t regale you. You didn’t ask me a question just to get a chuckle. That’s why we have teaching assistants. What characterizes academic rigor? I’ll give you a Dickensian answer: great expectations. University faculty members expect to work in a rarified environment of intellectual activity and curiosity. They expect their students to contribute to this community of intellect, or at the very least to reflect it.

Consequently, standards are high for any products that emerge from this intellectual hothouse, including academic papers. Standards not only are high, they are rather inflexible. After all, rigor is characterized by exactness and unvarying quality. It follows that thinking and writing are expected to be uniformly stimulating. Classroom discussions are expected to prick previously untouched nodes of the brain. Ideally, constructive criticism will awaken slumbering geniuses and produce a flowering of original thought.

This is the theory, anyway, behind “academic rigor.” By pushing and pushing, it is hoped that brains become fully engaged, enhancing the climate of thought on a campus. In reality, sometimes the only result is people with headaches. Still, the hope endures that students, such as you, can be persuaded to turn in papers marked by intellectual rigor. The greater hope is that you will become so conditioned to thinking rigorously that deep thought, thorough research, and clear expression will develop into lifelong habits.

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