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Ron Cooley, English Faculty

Documentation

What is the most important thing to remember when checking my documentation?

I mean there are two reasons for documenting, if you think about it: one is the reason why everybody in the academic world documents, and that is so your readers can follow in your footsteps, can go where you've gone, [and] can say, "yes, I find this essay persuasive because I've looked at those sources, and they say the same thing to me that they do to the writer of the essay." And [two], the sort of "student" reason for documenting is so you don't get in trouble. If you can...make the mental leap into thinking of documentation as a way of helping your reader, as part of the persuasive process, in helping your reader to follow along and allowing your reader to -- if you think of a scientific model, to replicate the experiment -- to look at the same evidence that you've looked at, and if some of it is not just the primary text, then [naming] where is it located, what particular editions have you used, who are the authors and editors of those books, all of those kinds of things, then that is adding to the persuasive value. So it's not just a matter of avoiding getting in trouble; it's a matter of communicating fully the work that you've done, and you can't get credit the work that you've done if you don't communicate the lengths that you've gone to to find evidence to substantiate your case.