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Created: September 13, 2003
Latest Update: September 13, 2003

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Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, September 2003.
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From our theory class,a student came to talk about his confusion with an author, not one of ours:

I'm glad that you came in to talk on Thursday evening. Sometimes it's hard to get a handle on what an author is saying. The first rule for handling that problem is to find someone who knows more than you do about that author. You have already tried that and it didn't work. OK. Second rule. Start tearing at the material until you can relate it to something you do understand and then start asking questions from there. Let's try that approach now. Several of you can work at teasing out the questions together. You can ask another person who might have expertise in the area. And when you can say more than "I don't understand. Period." then you can approach the author.

Greg Nielsen knows I have trouble understanding his book on norms of answerability. But when I have a question, then I can write to him and he'll help me understand. I have trouble sometimes understanding Gayatra Spivak's position. But I haven't had enough time yet to work out some specific questions. When I do, I can try contacting her. Meanwhile, I did ask a colleague. It's just that he was having the same problems. Sound familiar?

We can help each other understand by questioning in a disciplined fashion. And by disciplined, I mean we look for other sources, we ask our friends and colleagues, we reread it and think about it some more, and we struggle to find questions that reflect our confusion. That process IS academic scholarship.