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Gordon DesBrisay, History Faculty


Do you have any advice regarding the process of advising?

One thing is to try to separate yourself from it. That takes a little time. If you're really pushed, you hope you can at least sleep on it or go for a run, do something to fundamentally get your body and your brain onto something else for a little while. Then come back to it and try to read it imagining what a skeptical reader would be like, not somebody hostile, but somebody who needs to be convinced. Then ask yourself whether what you've just said, "Is that really what you mean to say?" and "Is that the best way to say it?" and "Is it clear?" Then give it to somebody else you trust to read, because that's also critical. If they... It's hard. We have our tremendous, in my case anyway, a lot of ego involved in writing because it's ultimately so personal. You don't have to be writing in first person to make it personal, to care about this stuff. It's your work. It's something you've slaved over. For somebody to come forward and say, "That doesn't make any sense to me" or "That's not very clear," which is, of course, the kind of thing I say to students every single day, but God help anybody that says that to me, until you have this little ironic moment where your lightbulb goes on and you go, "Oh yeah, right, this is what I subject other people to all the time. I think it's good for them, maybe it's good for me," and you calm down and you try to figure out...They might be wrong. Maybe they're actually not in the field or they're just not getting something that really is perfectly clear. Most likely, it's your fault and you need to make some adjustments.