Monday, November 18, 2013

if in doubt leave it out?

The topic is: manuscript writing with students.
Manuscript writing with students can be a breeze but mostly it is not. Which is of course because there is a lot of learning involved, not only for the students about "how to write a paper" but as well for me about "how to explain to this student how to write a paper". Depending on their background and experience it can be quite a challenge to explain why a section flows better this way compared to the other - esp because I'm not a native English speaker as well. My favorite discussions at the moment evolve around the statement "but this is how you would say it in Chinese" - yes, well,.... still it doesn't make sense in English.
However, one issue that has nothing to do with language or writing style has crossed my way more often recently. In the beginning of my collaborative-writing-career I thought it was just connected to a specific person but it seems to be a more general phenomena than this. When I comment on a manuscript written by a student - can be one of my students or one from a collaborative group - it happens quite often, that instead of addressing my comments the corresponding sections are just deleted without any further statement. This is easy to recognize if the changes are still visible, but often I get a completely "clean" draft and I have to compare it side by side with the former version to find the bits and pieces which were changed. Often the comments that belong to deleted sections were questions, because I didn't understand what the student wanted to say with a certain statement. So re-phrasing would have been more helpful than deleting. Being aware that my statistics are not good enough I'd say that it is mostly Asian students who prefer deleting over explaining and re-phrasing. Do you know if this is really a cultural thing or is it just coincidence that I got this impression? 
My own students got much better in discussing their manuscripts and it just happens occasionally that they try to avoid the re-phrasing - I guess, mostly when they are sick and tired of working on manuscript draft 10+. But it needed a bunch of discussions and explanations with them about this topic. However, I wonder how to deal with students from other groups I'm collaborating with. Do I have some "educational responsibilities" there as well or would I just mess up my collaborators terrain?

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