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January 11, 2012


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Calvin Massey

More unconstructive comments:
"You need to situate your work more clearly."
"Your work is interesting but thin."
"Could you drill deeper?"
Mentors need to be specific in their comments on scholarship, and be honest about the whole tenure process.

Cheap Calendar Printing

"You have a great voice, but you don't have anything to say." Love it! It made my day! -Sarah-

Eric Muller

When I go to academic conferences, I always bring a decaying severed head with me, so that when I'm told that I have to show them what I bring to the table, I have something handy.

Bridget Crawford

These two comments stick out in my mind as especially amusing and mystifying: "You've got the steak but not the sizzle," and "He's all hat, no cattle." Is it a meat thing that I just wouldn't understand?

Jacqui Lipton

Eric: Is it the decaying severed head of the last person who asked you what you bring to the table?

Dan Markel

I'm not sure why "you need to situate your work more clearly" is unconstructive. Many (aspiring) legal academics write pieces that respond to legal developments without doing the work of determining whether their piece actually moves the conversation forward. Are there academics who have already written on this topic? If so, what have they said and why is your piece an improvement on the literature? Who will be chastened by having read your piece because they now will think: hmm, I should have thought of that.
That's what it means to situate a piece, so the intervention of the new piece is clear. Articles or books that fail to do that are usually wasting their readers' time. And authors who don't understand why that advice is constructive are probably aiming to pick only fruit that is low-hanging.

Jacqui Lipton

Dan: I think your description of what that comment means is actually much more helpful than the comment itself. I suppose one of my pet peeves is academics speaking in shorthand and assuming all the newbies actually know what they are talking about. "Situate your work" how? "Drill deeper" in what sense? With respect to what aspect of the work?

I think some senior folks would do well to remember that junior folks don't automatically know what these phrases mean and could think to explain them more clearly, like you did in your post.

(Oh, and Bridget, it might be fun to get the meat metaphors together with Eric's severed head and see what happens!)

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