Professors discuss advising strategies for theses/dissertations

podcastlogoFor the second episode of the Journalism History podcast, the podcast team recorded a panel at the American Journalism Historians Association 2018 national convention in Salt Lake City. This panel discusses mentoring strategies that have worked and that haven’t when directing a historical dissertation or thesis.

Panelists were Rachel Grant, Earnest Perry, Julie Hedgepeth Williams, David R. Davies, and Maurine Beasley, with moderation by Bernell Tripp.

This episode is sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Transcript

Teri Finneman: [00:00:11] Welcome to Journalism History, a podcast that rips out the pages of your history books to re-examine the stories you thought you knew and the ones you were never told. I’m your host, Teri Finneman, guiding you through our own drafts of history. This episode is sponsored by the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. For more than a century, Grady College has educated students to relentlessly pursue the art, science, and integrity of stories. They’re committed to following First Amendment principles in a digital first environment as they prepare democracy’s next generation. This episode discusses best practices for directing a historical dissertation or thesis as discussed at an American Journalism Historians conference. Panelists are Maurine Beasley, Julie [Hedgepeth] Williams, Earnest Perry, Rachel Grant and Dave Davies.

Maurine Beasley: [00:01:08] I was just delighted when Dave asked me to be on this panel and come forth out of retirement, because this is a subject that I’ve given a lot of thought to. I have had a lot of experience with advising, and I want to really tell you a story, and I don’t want to over talk my time either because you got a lot of other people who have very interesting things to say to you. Well, I’ll tell you about a story. This is about a young woman who’s very uncertain of what she was doing and she had a job. She wasn’t sure if she was going to stay with it, she wasn’t sure if she was going to move on. She had a marital situation, she wasn’t sure if she was going to stay with either. And she also was enrolled in this Ph.D. program at a university where she had a male adviser, and he was never particularly helpful. And finally she became a feminist and thought, well maybe I should see through him. You know, there’s a lot of psychology involved in dealing with advising, with all the personalities you come in contact with. So she said to him one day, ‘Sir,’ we were always very formal, ‘Perhaps you don’t think a woman should get a Ph.D. Perhaps you think she should teach at the community college level and not worry about a Ph.D.’ Oh, he just smiled, like, ‘Ah, you have seen the light.’ And I said, ‘Yes. Thank you sir.’ Well, ok. Now, Title IX came along, affirmative action came along, and this university, and I’ll tell you the name, George Washington University in Washington D.C., got sued not once, but twice, or several times for not hiring women and minorities. So they managed to lure away from Howard University a woman who had a degree from Harvard named Letitia Woods Brown. And so Letitia came over to this program at George Washington University in American Civilization. And there were a few of us, really had very few Ph.D. students anyway, so why so-and-so would want to discourage anyone, I don’t know, but he did. And [Letitia] became the adviser of this young woman. And this young woman thought she would go into African-American studies because she had a minor in that field. Letitia, an African-American, said, ‘Yeah, I don’t think that’s a very good idea for you because I think the primary source material you will need is going to be kept in various archives and they really aren’t going to let you see them.’ This young woman said, ‘Ok.’

[00:03:59] Letitia said, ‘Well, let me think about it.’ And so the next time the young woman met with Letitia, Letitia said, ‘You know, I sat up in bed the other night and I said to my husband, ‘I’ve thought of something for that girl to do.’ Why don’t you write about Washington women travelers in the 19th Century, and you just go to the Library of Congress and look up what they wrote.’

[00:04:26] She went to the Library of Congress and she began to read a lot about women’s views on 19th Century journalism and she began to find that there were a lot of women involved in 19th Century journalism in Washington who had been previously overlooked. And so she wrote a dissertation about that. Well, I’m sure you’ve figured out, the young girl was me, and I really wanted to be here today due to David’s kind invitation because I wanted to thank Letitia Woods Brown for what she did for me. I would never have finished if I hadn’t had an advisor who cared, cared enough to sit up at night and say to her husband, “Why, I’ve thought of something for her to do.’ Letitia was a wonderful woman and the last time I saw her, she was dying of breast cancer, and I didn’t know that. And so I was complaining to her about some other problem I had with a job I had at the time and I’ve been embarrassed about it ever since. And so I want to publicly confess to her, and I’m sure she’s up there somewhere, that if it hadn’t been for her, I wouldn’t have had 40 years in academia. I have done a lot of advising of students, I have one of the advisees right here, and I have tried to remember what Letitia taught me, which is you really have to care about the students, or you aren’t going to be very successful. Thank you.

Julie Hedgepeth Williams: [00:06:10] Okey dokey. She’s right, you have to care. Now, I advise undergraduate senior theses, which is to say it’s not the Holy Grail to them, that a master’s student, they might have ahead looked at someone else’s thesis and thought, oh, I’m going to get a bound book out of it. I’m going to take it home and show it off. This is just another flame and hoop for them to jump through as far as they’re concerned. So, having taught two sections of this for 20 years, two sections a year for 20 years with about 8 to 15 students each time, I’ve figured out some tips and that’s what I’m going to throw at you. How do you deal with this massive group of undergrads who don’t really see this as the Holy Grail? So, got to get my glasses on to read them. I have to start with, this is not a term paper. You cannot dash this off in the last two weeks.

[00:06:58] You’d be surprised how many still think they can do that. Then I’m gonna say, you’re not writing a long magazine article. There will be no interviewing and no photographs here, and you should see the ‘huh?’ and I say, ‘There will be no documentaries made’ and ‘huh?’ You know, because I say, ‘look, you already know how to do that.’ This is a new genre. This is a different genre called original research and it’s not journalistic research. Journalistic research is not original research. Then you get, ‘huh?’ and they get all upset. And I say, ‘No, no, I’m not saying that you’re not original when you do journalism’ and I had to praise journalism, which I do, I think journalism is incredibly valuable. But as I say to them, as a journalist when a news event happens you have to say, I can’t of mine own self know nothing, I have to go to an expert and the expert has to explain it and it’s my job to funnel that through in a way the public can understand. And it’s a high, high public service, but this way you’re going to the original documents if it’s history, opinions if it’s a survey, reactions if it’s an experiment, you’re going to the original and you’re becoming the expert. They kind of get that. So, then they have to be told, well, what is original research because they all come in thinking you’re going to write a big magazine article which they already know how to do. So I go through all the different genres, mainly emphasizing what I won’t do. Like I can’t do a trend study, not enough time. They cannot do anything with minors, not enough IRB space. You know, they can’t do anything that will get me fired, like the young man who wanted to record a saw porn movie and get kids’ reaction to it, no, I put my foot down. So, then they turn in their idea. Most of them come in to you with their idea with like, ‘I’m going to do a survey and I’m going to do some historical research and I’m going to…’ because they hear it has to be 15 pages at a minimum. Now the secret is, I’ve only had two in all these 20 years that came in at 15 pages, most are 25 to 35. I have no upper limit, and they’re just astonished when I say, ‘choose one.’ And then you have to really discern what their heart is, just like Maurine was saying, you have to figure out where their heart really is so they can really latch onto it. And they usually come out of your office dancing because they only have to do one of their six ideas, which is great.

[00:09:10] Then they have to do a lit review on their idea. Now, here’s why I specifically differ from my masters training. I remember doing a literature review that took all semester, it was 20s of some long, 25, 30 sources, and on and on. Alright, this is not going to happen in a one semester class with kids who aren’t interested in that. I tell them you have to have five scholarly sources, and they don’t have to go anymore, some do, but that’s it. And then also, I had this philosophy with lit review, and I know there are various ones, but I say, ‘what we’re trying to prove is that nobody’s done your topic before, because if you’re just reporting on what someone else has done, you’re not doing original research, you’re back in that term paper, right?’ And some of them get frantic, but I’d point out like, ‘Well, let’s say you want to look at World War II ads.’ We can all name a bunch of articles we’ve read about World War II ads, but, I’ll say, ‘Nobody’s written about the ads in our student newspaper in World War II. Oh, they really grab hold of that pretty well. But I limit that lit review because the fun part is yet to come. Now, grading the lit review is another bear. I used to say, ‘Oh, that’s good for a first try, let me give you a B minus on that. Now, you need to fix all this stuff.’ Well, they’ll say, ‘I got to be modest, I’m happy, goodbye’ with that part, so now I have to grade it real realistically. I’ll tell them, ‘I’m giving you the real grade you’d you get if this was the last day of class,’ and they’re coming up with some Ds and some D pluses and they’re really upset. And I’ll say, ‘But wait, you have coming up your prospectus, your first draft, and your final draft, and if the final draft is perfect, it gets an A.’ So, it gives them kind of an incentive and a little realism at the same time, and that has worked, that finally is the formula that worked. And then they have to write a prospectus, very easy for the qualitative people, I just have to make sure they really can get their hands on Life Magazine in 1936 and that it really does have what they want in it. But the quantitative ones, you got to work with them, is this survey question really worth it? You know, oh, have you asked enough, have you asked too much, and all that. Oh, those are a bear. But anyway, when the qualitative ones are approved, I’m the only approver on that. They have a month and a week to get their first draft in. And you have to ride them, you have to remind them. Then the quantitative ones have to go through IRB, which every year gets worse and worse at our school, very difficult, takes a lot of time. And so, I told them, the minute you get the ok from IRB, you hit send on your survey, just hit send now. And you’d be surprised how many, “oh, I was going to do that next week’ or ‘oh, I forgot’ and I’m like, ‘no, no.’ You gotta ride them, because they have a limited time and limited understanding of how much analysis and all they have to do. So, then they come in with their first draft. Now I’ve adopted a schematic for grading that some will go, ‘huh,’ you all will do that. But what I finally decided, I realized that you can’t just say to them, ‘you got a lot of grammar errors here,’ and they’ll go, ‘what?’ Because they’re journalists, they think they know grammar. So, I’ve finally taken to correcting the grammar, just ding, ding, ding, and I try to explain the repeated errors. You know, we’re going to have to fix this. You’re doing this all the time. But sometimes I just, ‘what the hay,’ I just take out their comma, I don’t even mention it, because I’ve decided that I’m kind of adopting the position of, I’m no longer sort of your adversarial teacher, I’m now your sort of teacher editor. So I’m trying to get it looking into shape. But, the real problem comes in analysis. They will almost never do enough analysis. Well, all but two in all these years have not done enough analysis. So what I do is I read along until I get to the first analysis I can really get a hold of, and I flip the paper over (I make them print on the front side only for that reason) and I start writing it, how it should sound. I’ll say, ‘based on the data you have, here’s what you should be saying,’ and I’ll do the analysis on that sample, and then I’ll do another one. Depending on the length I might do one more, then I’ll get tired of doing that. Then I’ll start listing bullet points. ‘I think you need to talk about this, this, this,’ and by the time I’m at the end, I’m too tired to do it and I’ll say, ‘you need to do what I told you to do on the back of page 6.’ Now, the good ones will take that and run with it. They come in with some great stuff. They get it, you know, the mediocre ones are falling all over themselves with gratitude, they say ‘Oh, that’s exactly what I wanted to say, but I didn’t know how to say it.’ And they will be coming to you every week with another paragraph they’ve written, begging ‘is this Ok?’ But, you know, that’s OK. I’m alright with that because they realize what they need to learn and they’ve got into the idea of, I’m learning, I’m figuring this out, and they’re usually able to chip away at it in a pretty meaningful way, they’re pretty good. The bad students, they’ll correct what you wrote on those first two or three, and they’ll never go back to it, and then they get bent out of shape when they get a bad grade at the end. But, that has worked a great deal, because I discovered it’s no good to make them guess, they have no idea what they’re talking about because it’s such a new genre to them. They have not looked forward to anybody else, they’ve read the few articles in the lit review, but they’re really mystified. And so the idea is to kind of become somewhat of an editor with them as opposed to an adversary, and they generally come up with a paper that they’re pretty proud of. And some of them have been used in applying for jobs and such like that. And I believe I’ve actually got done in the time limit. I think I’ve done it. So anyway, those were my tips, after scores and scores of students, how to get through the large number. And you know, it kind of works. I’d be happy to talk with you further if you advise undergrads.

Earnest Perry: [00:14:26] Good morning.

[00:14:34] So, my role on this panel is to discuss how to help students producing a disciplinary master’s thesis and dissertations. This is something that I have a lot of experience in, because a majority of the students in our program in Missouri do interdisciplinary work because of the way we’re set up.

[00:14:53] So, we were talking earlier and we kind of wanted to make sure that we left a lot of time for discussion, so I’m just going to go through a couple of points here, and then I’ll talk a little bit more about them in the question and answer session.

[00:15:10] One of the first things that is key in terms of interdisciplinary master’s thesis and dissertations is making sure that you have contacts in other parts of campus.

[00:15:25] And our program is interdisciplinary across the board, so we have four major research areas, media sociology, strategic communications, media history, and law policy and ethics. We also have both formal and informal connections with history, with English, with education, with sociology, with law, with other programs on campus. What that does is that helps us in working with those programs to get our students into those classes, especially when it comes to methodology. One of the things that we really push is for our students to not only learn the methodology within our own unit, but also methodologies outside to make that much broader connection. So, I have a student right now who is working on researching journalists who were vital to the formation of the house organ for the Southern Baptist Convention.

[00:16:33] And in her coursework and in her work where she is right now, she’s ABD, she’s working on her dissertation, but prior to that she was working with a media sociologist. She was working with someone who’s doing historical sociology. She was working with someone from history who is a scholar in southern culture, and then she’s also working with the civil rights historian because one of the time periods she’s looking at is the civil rights movement.

[00:17:04] So, she’s been able to pull all of that together through coursework and through connections that we have in the school to build out this sort of interdisciplinary type of dissertation.

[00:17:20] So, in moving from that, the other part of this is getting students to understand, and faculty, that the media is not the center of the universe. There are other parts that play into it, because oftentimes students will come in with a narrow idea that’s one dimensional, especially when they’re thinking about a media topic and they center it solely on the media and not everything that sort of pulls into that. So, getting them to take a multidisciplinary approach in developing their ideas that can lead to either an interdisciplinary thesis or an interdisciplinary research, that it builds on a larger picture that reflects the multidimensional cultures and societies that the media operates in. And in the role that that plays in not only in the media’s relationship with that, but also, and this is when we start talking about building out a much larger research portfolio that goes past the thesis and the dissertation, is that understanding that methodology and understanding how the other parts of the Academy could actually help you to be a much well-rounded scholar as opposed to just being in this finite sort of area. So, the main part to me is trying to get the students to be able to build a bridge between who we are and what we do as media historians and how does that fit into the other areas of history.

[00:19:05] When you start talking about sociology, you start talking about law, you start talking about even business history, we have a connection there. So, how do you build that out.

[00:19:12] So, you know, and the other part to that is it also creates an opportunity for the students to build a mentor-mentee relationship with someone who’s outside of media history and can help connect them in ways that we don’t think about when we get into our smaller cliques and that can help them to build out their research and make it much more broader. And that sort of fits into one of the last things I want to talk about, which is, and I’m putting on my administrator hat here, is that you know, we hear over and over again how we need to collaborate with other units on campus, especially when it revolves around, how do you make those connections for grants. How do you make those connections for foundation funding? How do you make those connections when the budget starts getting cut and the provost and the chancellor starts talking about, we need to take an interdisciplinary approach.

[00:20:21] A lot of that revolves around graduate education.

[00:20:28] And they’re talking about, can your unit partner with another unit in doing research that can lead to increased citation metrics, that can lead to more funding in terms of grants and foundations. Your graduate students, whether you’re talking about the coursework that they’re doing, the dissertations, the theses that they are doing, they all fit into that. And so, when you start to think about interdisciplinary and making those connections, that is where it starts, and what it can lead to ultimately, is that you have students who are coming out of the programs who have this interdisciplinary approach, and that can lead to foundation and grant proposals that stretch past your campus to other campuses because your students are out there. So, they keep those same mentor-mentee relationships that we’re fostering.

[00:21:30] So now, we do interdisciplinary work, even on a history basis, with former students who are at other universities. So, that keeps that pipeline going. So, I think it’s really important to stress that because in the current higher education environment, if you’re not collaborating with other units on campus you stand a good chance of being marginalized.

[00:21:59] And one of the ways to do that is to have your students working with other faculty, other students, at other units to build out that collaborative environment. Thank you.

Rachel Grant: [00:22:14] So, hello, my name is Dr. Rachel Grant. I graduated from the University of Missouri. I’m here to provide the student perspective. Dr. Earnest Perry was my advisor for my dissertation and I also did a historical master thesis as well. So, by word of advice, I guess to be piggy back and talk about what everyone else has talked about, a lot of the relationship, at least for the student’s perspective, is this a person I can trust that’s going to actually help me get through this process. I think there’s a lot of fear of what this project is, because at that moment the thesis or dissertation is probably the biggest project you’ve ever done. So, fostering that relationship really early is really important. Both times when I did my master’s and my graduate, my dissertation, there were several times before I even started writing or even thinking about actually what I wanted to do, there was a lot of conversations and a lot of telling me, ‘No, you can’t do that,’ or ‘No, this is not the direction you want to go.’

[00:23:25] Dr. Perry likes to use the word, ‘don’t go down this rabbit-hole.’ So, I used to go down several rabbit-holes. I think I was like, ‘Oh, I want to talk about NWACP,’ he’s like, ‘how does that fit with black female journalists?’

[00:23:38] So, having that conversation is really important early, in the beginning. And then, also again, talking about the University of Missouri, it is a very interdisciplinary program. So, I remember very early on, probably my second semester in the program, Dr. Perry and Dr. Mislán were already introducing me to people outside the program. So, I was introduced to a historian in the history department who does black history, particularly focusing on women, as well as meeting with someone who does media sociology because I knew I wanted to focus on the Cold War period and that was the area that she was really involved in and understood.

[00:24:22] She wrote a book on social movements. I remember after we had kind of met these people, Dr. Perry was like, ‘go introduce yourself to these people and ask them if they’re interested in your project,’ and I was like, ‘I have to ask them if they’re interested in this project?’ But it really meant a lot to actually have people who actually are interested in what your students are doing. It made the process easier.

[00:24:44] I will say from some of my other classmates who did not do that process, there was a lot of struggle with your committee actually agreeing on what you’re actually doing. So, everybody kind of knew what their role and what their position and their insight was to the project. So, it made it very easy to not step on anybody’s toes, who knew the actual information, the resources that I needed, as well as having and taking classes with those professors after I decided what my topic was. So, by my second year, I had already decided that I wanted to use black feminist theory in my paper because we had already talked about that’s what I wanted to do, focus on black female journalists. So, that second year I was already in a class and I basically broke my theory part of my dissertation. Again, a very broad understanding of what black feminism was, but I was able to pull that information and put it in my dissertation. I took an African-American history class and we did a state of field historiography and I was able to do it on black female journalists. So, a lot of the work that I was doing interdisciplinary was able to already apply to the final project. I hadn’t done any archive work at all, but I already had my theory, I had most of the historiography, the context, and then I took a discourse analysis, which we had a conversation about doing discourse for my dissertation.

[00:26:17] So, all these pieces were coming together. It wasn’t until, like the second semester. By the way, I completed my dissertation in three years, which if you met me in St. Petersburg, I didn’t believe that was actually going to happen. Janice knows this because I was like, ‘this man’s crazy, I’m not going to finish this in 3 years.’ Because he’s like, ‘we’re going to get this done,’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ So, basically by the second year I knew what my topic was because we had had a conversation, we’re like, ‘we need to pick the topic.’

[00:26:45] So, I picked the case that I was going to focus on and that summer, while studying for comps, I was actually starting to collect archives and figure out what I wanted to actually collect information on. Luckily, with technology and a lot of the topics that I was covering, I was able to go and get archived information from ProQuest and then also a lot of this was digitized and I went to the Schonberg. If you go to their library, they give you three months of free access of their digital archives, FYI. It’s amazing.

[00:27:22] And then also I went to Emory. But, again, the process very much was already very interdisciplinary. I already felt like I knew the knowledge for what my theory was so, I understood what black feminist theory was, not just in the context of what media does, but also in the larger understanding of what that actually means, a larger breadth of knowledge.

[00:27:45] Same thing with history, with African-American history. I ended up receiving a graduate minor in black studies because I was already taking those courses interdisciplinary in different programs.

[00:27:56] And then, as well as the media sociology part, understanding relationships of power and how the media fits within that and that was able to dig into my knowledge of what I was actually doing my dissertation. So, when it came to actually writing it, a big bulk of things I already had a very big knowledge or understanding of what that was, because of the courses and the interdisciplinary work that we had already done. So, basically I just got to write the media part. So, that’s the part that’s very difficult but you actually enjoy it more because it’s not the theory and the methodology stuff.

[00:28:32] So, that’s what I would say. I think just knowing that your students know that you could trust them. Dr. Perry still has to tell me, ‘it’s going to be ok, don’t worry about it,’ even though I don’t necessarily think that at that time, it usually turns out that way. And just being able to keep that mentor and mentee relationship. I’m still doing research with Cristina Mislán outside of the program, still communicating with the professor who’s in history and working with her on getting my book prospectus done. So, keeping those relationships in a very, I would say, interdisciplinary broad understanding is important. So, that’s what I have.

Dave Davies: [00:29:18] Morning, I’m Dave Davies, and my part of the panel is to talk about topic generation with students. I’ll start by telling you about going to the southeast symposium in the mid 1990s when I was in mid-dissertation and Dr. Sloan I suppose, came up the idea, ‘David, why don’t you give a presentation on this panel about doing your dissertation.’ And so I was in that, I guess it’s the research equivalent of your teenage years of your dissertation.

[00:29:56] I was in that awkward place where things were starting to move, but there was still enough uncertain that I wasn’t exactly certain of which way I was going. And so, the analogy I used in that presentation was I feel like I’ve taken apart a bicycle and I’m about a third of the way toward putting it back together, but you know, I’m kind of having trouble with some of the remaining parts. Well, that analogy followed me for about five years after, and all the way till the day I finished my dissertation, people would say, ‘how’s that bicycle coming?’

[00:30:28] So, I wanted to talk about the particular part of the bicycle about topic selection, which I’ve always thought is one of my most favorite parts of working with dissertation students on pulling together things. And looking at the folks in the room, I don’t pretend that I’m going to be telling you too much that you don’t already do, but maybe it’s useful to talk about some of the things that I go over with students. Like Julie’s, sometimes students come in and they already have an idea. And my wife, who’s an archivist at University of Southern Mississippi, works in special collections. Yes, pretty handy, I know. She deals with students who come in all the time and they’ll come in with these obscure ideas and she says, you know, ‘I want to do something on feminism in World War II prison camps,’ and Jennifer will say, ‘well, we don’t really have any sources on World War II prison camps.’ And so, I think that’s my biggest thing that I work with students to start out with, is are their sources in which you’re interested in? They don’t necessarily have to be down the street. They don’t necessarily have to be in the building next door in the archives, but they have to be something that’s available to you that you’re going to be able to get to, either on the Internet or within the time constraints of your class or completion of the dissertation to get to that particular archives. So, are there sources for this that are going to be able to shed some kind of light on all of that? And secondly, is it important? Julie mentioned the standard of has it been done before. And I think in discussions with Julie you have also heard her say that, ‘well if nobody’s ever done a story,’ I remember this example specifically from one of your presentations, ‘maybe nobody has ever studied spitting on the sidewalk in Birmingham in the 1880s, but maybe it’s because that’s not that important.’ So, you have to go through that gentle dance of is it an important enough topic. And even if it has been done, as Julie said, is there is a slice of it that you can take that hasn’t been approached, and if it hasn’t been done, ask yourself why not and make certain it is connected to a bigger question. The example I remember being explained to me was that the there’s the top of the pyramid, where the biggest issue is at the top, and you want a slice of that off the bottom that sheds some light on that bigger issue, and sometimes that helps students as we think about that. The thing I really try to emphasize to them though in topic selection is to get out of the building. When I was in the newsroom, they would say to us, ‘you’re never going to come up with a great story staring out the newsroom window. You have to get out.’ Well, similarly the students need to go to the library, look through some of the literature to try to get some ideas about where they’re actually headed. They’ll have a sense about what the sources are and they’ll have a sense about what’s been done. I think a good place to start, particularly for a university like mine and I’m sure all of yours, where there’s plenty of cool collections in your archive, start with those collections. What about those collections might lead you toward topics? Knowing full well that you have a source base right down the street. At Southern Miss, for example, we have the DeGrumen children’s collection. We have everything related to children’s literature virtually that’s ever been done. It’s the second largest collection of children’s literature in the country. And I always tell students this, it’s never resonated with a particular student, but by golly I’m going to keep trying. Lastly, I would like to say that I think it’s important to give students a sense about how to stay organized in all of this, and some of you in this room have been subjected to my 60 Minutes style questioning of how did you organize that project. Because I’m really interested in how each of us go about the business not only of collecting the information but keeping it organized by topic and what not in order to put that bicycle back together at the end. You all have your own secrets. You’ve talked to other folks about their secrets about putting things together. But I think it’s kind of surprising how little time as a discipline, in media history and in American history, we spend actually talking to students about how to organize a huge amount of information. For most of these students, they’ve only done maybe term papers before now and for the first time they’re having to do something large scale. You know, for some of us, the least organized among us, myself included, those kinds of tips on organizing the material can prove really useful. And then lastly, talking about rabbit holes, I have to touch on the rabbit hole, I really try to, like Earnest, keep my students from going down the rabbit hole of different topics. What I always say is, the grass is always greener on the other side of the library. As soon as you decide on a topic, what seems so doable and so just rich in primary sources, the minute a student hits that first snag where this seems more complicated than it at first appeared, ‘Gosh, that other topic I was considering looks so much more attractive.’

[00:35:51] I try very hard to have people stick with that, to get an idea they like enough to stick with it, because we’ve all had situations where you bounce around from idea to idea and all that bouncing is not getting any research done. I’m looking forward to the question and answer part of this as I hope that will be a very rich part of the discussion. Thank you.

Teri Finneman: [00:36:20] Thanks for tuning in to this recording of an American Journalism Historians Association conference session and additional thanks to our sponsor at the University of Georgia. Until next time, I’m your host, Teri Finneman, signing off with the words of Edward R. Murrow, good night and good luck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s