View Full Version : Student Calls for Help

Mel Siff
07-06-2002, 06:36 AM
The following letter which was written anonymously to me serves as a useful
Case Study for any students who are undertaking research projects. This sort
of communication becomes rife on many professional user lists whenever term
paper time comes round - it always appears as if students leave everything to
the last minute and do everything but academic work first, then rely on
someone on some user group to rescue them or even to do the bulk of the work,
in many cases.

Here is the letter:

Someone wrote:

Some lessons from this Case Study:

1. Never contact someone without giving your full name and address. It is
very rare for any professional to respond to anonymous, unsolicited letters.

2. Provide full details about who you are, what course you are studying,
what year of study you are in and why you are contacting the recipient of
your letter.

3. State clearly and concisely what you have already done and which
references you have already consulted. If you fail to do this, it appears as
if you have done NOTHING so far.

4. Never ask for urgent project help the day before it is due! This shows
exactly where your priorities lie. If there is some good medical or family
reason for the urgency, then state it honestly.

5. Word your letter so that you explicitly state your appreciation - don't
write any letter as if it were a politely
phrased demand.

6. Phrase your letter to show that you are a keen, dedicated and diligent
student who finds the project challenging, interesting or enjoyable, not just
as some necessary evil that some other lecturer has inflicted upon you.

Other academics on the list might like to add their own words of wisdom to
what I have penned above.

Incidentally, I regularly receive requests from senior students who want me
to read their entire theses or dissertations to see if there are any
omissions, errors or weaknesses. Now, this is a task that generally takes
many days and a great deal of effort, yet, as soon as one mentions that you
might charge for this service as an experienced academic and technical
editor, students usually rapidly disappear. Apparently they accept that one
has to pay a doctor or a lawyer for advice, but not academics!

Many of us in academia would dearly love to have the infinite time and
financial resources to be able to help every student who approaches us, but
one has to live and have family free time. If students had to pay academics
at a fraction of the rate they pay for legal advice, they would find that the
average 100-150 page dissertation could cost them over $20,000, so why are
they or their parents apparently so willing to pay many thousands to lawyers,
but not even a few hundred to academics who also happen to be extremely
well-qualified and experienced? Is this because academics are all too often
regarded as non-professional and unbusinesslike?

Dr Mel C Siff
Denver, USA

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