Thursday, April 23, 2009

Must be exam season

The non-stop parade of students coming through the department complaining about their grades can mean only one thing: it must be time for finals. There is no shortage of people (undergrad and MBAs) who, in anticipation of their exams, think it would probably be a good idea to come whine to their professors about their sub-par performance so far this semester, looking for some kind of assurance that the final won't be that hard, that the class will be graded on a curve, that despite flunking the midterm and missing five classes in a row, they can still get a good grade. Now, normally I couldn't care less, but today they seem to all be funneling into the office across the hall from mine, whose occupant must certainly be nearly deaf, judging by the volume of his voice.

[to the Professor Across the Hall: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!

Not even my ipod can drown him out... so much for having a productive afternoon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A crushing blow or a lucky near miss?

When, three weeks into your initial literature seach on a possible dissertation topic, in your 6,000th iteration of google-scholaring your keywords, you come accross a ten year old working paper which addresses your exact research question, should you be devastated at the prospect of having to start over, or thankful that you dodged the proverbial bullet. It's unfortunate that your idea has been taken, but if the paper is ten years old and was never published, it clearly wasn't much of an idea in the first place and I guess you're better off just moving on. Or, there's the third reaction: not dissapointment or relief, but rather crushing self-doubt upon realizing that, not only can you not come up with an original question, but the unoriginal questions you do think of are apparently not very interesting anyway.

On a related note, why do these papers never turn up in the first, fifth or even twentieth round of a literature search?