On Being Your Students’ Best Source of Information

Credit: iStock.com/martinedoucet
Credit: iStock.com/martinedoucet
When I was in graduate school, I had to pass four written preliminary exams over various subject areas in psychology. Each exam was three hours long, closed book, and composed of essay and short answer questions. The questions could cover any topic in the subject area, and to pass, you had better be able to cite relevant research and researchers from memory. To prepare for each exam, we were given an extensive list of research articles and books to read in the months before the exam. When I read over the list, my heart sank. Then I realized something that gave me hope. The list was composed of classic research articles written by the biggest names in the field. The findings were so renowned that nearly all the researchers had written accounts of their research for more general audiences in journals such as Scientific American. I could just read those articles. They were much shorter and easier to read but still had the level of detail I needed. After all, how much detail can you go into in three hours? That’s what I (and all my friends) did, and we passed.

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