“immigrants, poor people, queer people of color, disabled folks, women (esp trans women of color) and gender-nonconforming folks if you are in academia and you don't feel smart enough, remember that you are in the playground and training grounds of the elite. academia was not designed to include you. you are surviving something that has been systemically designed to exclude you in order to keep power in the hands of white, middle class, able bodied cis-men. knowing this, don't let academia train you to believe that elitism is the right way to make it through school. you can learn shit, hold the knowledge of your people in your heart, discard shame for your humble beginnings and/or marginalized identities. move through this experience knowing that the changes it offers you don't have to include accepting academic elitism, inaccessible language or superiority. you can can simultaneously own the privilege that comes with being college educated and connections to your roots. academia does not have to kill your spirit. ”—fabian romero- indigenous immigrant queer boi writer, facilitator and community organizer
“The student is put outside of society, on a campus. Furthermore, he is excluded while being transmitted a knowledge which is traditional in nature, obsolete, 'academic' and not directly tied to the needs and problems of today [...] Young people from 18 to 25 are thus, as it were, neutralized by and for society, rendered safe, ineffective, socially and politically castrated. There is the first function of the university: to put students out of circulation.”—Foucault, “Rituals of Exclusion” (1971 interview)
“I love my job and I can’t imagine doing anything else, but doing it here at the University of Chicago has been one of the most emotionally and physically damaging experiences of my life. I return every day to rooms in which I’ve been hurt to learn from people who look nothing like me and to teach people who look nothing like me about whole theoretical worlds in which I do not exist. I sit, shoulders tensed, in classrooms as each racist, sexist, and homophobic word from the mouths of my colleagues hits me like a blow to the chest. Some of them, I imagine, actually leave the classroom feeling full of life and intellectual energy. The structural violence of this institution makes it unlikely I will ever know how that feels. I don’t know how much stronger and braver I might feel if the professor were black, or latino, or gay. I don’t know how much more capable I would feel if I could see a world I recognized in the texts we read. And as I walk home every evening past countless University of Chicago police officers and my shoulders knot even tighter, I wonder if you realize that they don’t make everyone feel more safe...Sexism, racism, and homophobia thrive on this campus and it is not a problem of dialogue, it is a problem of institutional violence...I don’t need you to implement programming to “raise awareness” about my very existence, and I don’t have the strength left to lend my energies to the project of documenting my worth.”—
as most grad students of color know, Kaya Williams is not alone in feeling this way. this is a persistent problem on university campuses nationwide.
at Washington State University, for example, where a Native faculty member was recently brutally beaten within an inch of his life and three Asian undergraduate women were sexually harassed in racially targeted violence in the same weekend, the university has responded poorly at best; they never issued an emergency alert to students in the wake of the attacks, it took several days for administration to even acknowledge the events, and the only concrete thing they’ve promised is yet another inquiry & commission on the matter. these actions obviously don’t make a dent in patterns of violence on campus, considering the same response was given a few years ago when a Black student had his teeth kicked in, a trans student was severely beaten, & neo-Nazi propaganda was posted all over campus—no changes in campus climate have occurred. the university’s disappointing response to this violence isn’t all that surprising when you remember that they have terrible enrollment and retention rates for underrepresented students of color, an even worse rate of recruitment of faculty of color, no substantive requirements for curricula that addresses issues of race, and have recently consolidated their Women Studies, Queer Studies, & Ethnic Studies programs into one “minority studies” department (which is headed by a cis-hetero white male). moreover, there is a serious problem with sexual harassment and assault on campus, that’s occurring even at the faculty level.
is it any surprise so many students of color drop out, go on extended leave, and/or take way longer to earn their degrees? these universities are unsafe on every level, and things need to change.
Got a paper due? Tips for lazy writers!
In light of this post that’s been going around, I thought I’d share some paper-writing tips that are useful for when you’re feeling lazy or uninspired, or you’ve got writer’s block, or you procrastinated too much and just don’t have the time to write ten whole pages on agency and causality in Anna Karenina, or whatever. They won’t get the job done quite as quickly as a cut-and-paste operation will, but on the other hand, you won’t get expelled for doing any of these things either.
1. Use JSTOR. JSTOR can be a real lifesaver when you are doing last minute source-hunting. JSTOR is basically an online database of articles from reputable academic journals about almost any topic imaginable. Basically, if you are writing about a topic or book that is relatively popular or well-known, JSTOR alone can provide you enough sources to write a twenty-page paper. If you are a college student, your institution should provide you with JSTOR access. If you are a high school student, make friends with a college student!
2. Use book reviews. If you are using an academic book as one of your sources but can’t be bothered to actually read it, read the reviews instead. Academic reviews are usually three pages long at most (many are not even a page) and offer not only a helpful and concise summary of the contents of the book, but also a sense of how the book fits into conversations that have happened or are happening in the scholarship of its field… and, of course, what the reviewer, an academic and often a professor, thought of it. Book reviews are like SparkNotes for grad students. JSTOR is the best place to get good reviews from reputable journals and scholars.
Nota bene: do not plagiarize book reviews. You can quote and cite book reviews if that is useful to you, or if you want to increase your word count by discussing both the book and the reviews of it.
3. Use a lot of quotations. You might be surprised at how much space quotations can take up in a paper that makes responsible use of them—I’ve written papers where quotations (from both primary and secondary sources) took up almost half the word count. Of course, if you use them clumsily, it might come off as a transparent attempt to take up space, but if you use good, relevant quotations that support your argument, you look like a thorough, meticulous scholar.
Remember, if your quotation takes up more than four lines, you need to use a block quotation. In proper MLA format, a block quotation is indented one inch and retains the same font size and spacing as the rest of the text—which takes up tons of space, but if you have a sense of shame, like I did, it looks just a little bit too space-waste-y. But hey, that’s what the handbook says to do!
Be more sparing with block quotations in shorter papers and more generous with them in longer papers. Writing about anything in verse (poetry, Shakespeare, etc.) is a good excuse for lots of block quotations!
4. Use footnotes instead of parenthetical citation. This is actually something I whole-heartedly recommend, if you have the option (you might not). Not only do Chicago-style footnotes take up tons of space on the page, Chicago citation is more useful, more flexible, and more professional-looking than MLA. The higher up you go in academia in the humanities, the more people you will see using Chicago and using footnotes. Just make sure you format the citations properly, because the format for footnotes is a little different than for bibliographical entries.
5. Paraphrase and summarize. Okay, so we were all told to analyze, not summarize, but sometimes you just need to fill space to make your ten pages. And you might be surprised at how much summarizing you can do before your paper actually starts to sound bad, and at how much summarizing academics often consider necessary in their papers. If you paraphrase something AND quote it, it takes up tons of space. And if you are summarizing an argument from one of your sources, it can be useful and sometimes even necessary—it often reads not as summary but as synthesis (because you need to understand the argument to summarize it and boil it down for the reader to understand), especially if it is an idea that’s fundamental to your own argument. You can also summarize different arguments other people have made about the topic you’re writing about, to give the reader a sense of the conversation you’re entering into. Summarizing what other people have said is a lot easier than saying stuff yourself; just remember that even when you put other people’s ideas into your own words, you still have to cite them to give them proper attribution for those ideas.
5. Mention the names of the authors and sources you cite. Instead of just quoting or paraphrasing your sources and adding the citation, include the names of authors and sources in your text, e.g., “Historian R. I. Moore, in his 1987 book The Formation of a Persecuting Society inwhich he discusses the sudden explosion of persecutory activity against marginalized communities starting in the eleventh century, argues that…”
6. Quote sources from other languages. Then include a translation into English (or whatever language you’re writing in) either in the text of the paper or in a footnote. This takes up tons of space and makes you look really smart. Make sure you say where you got the translation from—you can cite a published English translation with attribution, or you can translate the quotation yourself and add a note that you did so. This is a tip for the multilingual only—DON’T quote anything you can’t read, even if you have a translation of it. (Of course, you can just quote the translation by itself.)
7. Some “your mileage may vary” tips. Everyone is a different kind of writer, so other people might not find these as useful, but these are strategies that have worked for me. Before you start writing, gather all your quotations and arrange them in the order you plan to use them; then write the paper around them—voila! A lot quicker than an outline, and saves a lot of time flipping through books and articles and searching for quotes as you go. Don’t get stuck on one part of your paper; if you can bear to write non-sequentially, skip to a section you are in the “mood” to write about instead—keeps you from wasting time dawdling because you don’t know what to say or how to phrase something. Do all your bibliographical entries and citations at once (at what point in the writing process you do it is up to you)—this prevents you from having to look up the citation format multiple times. If you need bibliographical info for a book you no longer have access to, Amazon or any university library search catalogue is a good source for that information.
8. And some “basic” tips of the margin-fudging, 2.2-spacing variety. Hit the space bar twice after a full stop (you might be surprised at how much space that takes up). Use Cambria,* Microsoft Word’s new default font, instead of Times New Roman (if you have the option—it’s significantly bigger.) Remember that a greater number of shorter paragraphs takes up more space than a smaller number of longer paragraphs. Divide your paper into sections with their own title headings. If your teacher is picky about margin size, fudge only the right and bottom margins. (You can fudge the bottom margin the most, because Word is often idiosyncratic about where it breaks a page, depending on the paragraphs involved.) 2.1 or 2.2 spacing is a thing you can do if you play around with the paragraph settings, and it’s not obvious unless you have a teacher who’s on the lookout for that sort of thing. Some people double space their header info (name, date, class, professor’s name), but personally, I think that looks ugly.
Hopefully, this is useful and might save some poor souls from the desperation and ignominy of plagiarism. Feel free to chime in if you find these helpful (and what you found helpful or not helpful), or if you have any tips of your own! I will add more as I think of them!
*Because someone mentioned it: MS Word’s new default font is Calibri in some editions and Cambria in others. Calibri is the default for Word 2007 and 2010 for Windows, I believe (I don’t own any computers running Windows, so this is just what I’ve observed from using other computers), but I believe Cambria is the default for new versions of Word for Mac. It is definitely the default for Word 2011 for Mac, which is what I use. At any rate, I wouldn’t recommend using Calibri. To my eye, it looks much less professional than Cambria. I’ve seen plenty of grad students and professors using Cambria in their papers, articles, handouts, dissertation chapters, etc. I’ve never seen anyone use Calibri. I would generally say no to academic use of sans serif fonts, although that might be the personal bias of someone who has way too many feelings about fonts.