Saturday, January 23, 2010

Multiple minds

So, I received feedback about one of my articles today.  The article was rejected, which I can live with since I tossed the paper together in about a week to meet a deadline, but what's really interesting are the comments. 

The reviewers were supposed to answers questions with a number btwn 1-5 with all 5s meaning that the paper was really good on just about all fronts and all 1s meaning it was really bad on just about all fronts. One reviewer gave it just about all 5s with a
few 4s sprinkled in while the other reviewer gave it mostly 1s and 2s with some 3s and I think one 5 (for provocative).  If two reviewers have such wildly divergent views on exactly the same paper, this provides reason to take seriously the personal nature of responses to papers (I happily grant that a really good paper would get 5s from all sorts of reviewers and that a really bad one would get all 1s).

This reminds me of  a paper I turned in in graduate school.  I'd been working on it for a really long time and asked a professor to read it.  This professor absolutely trashed the paper (almost entirely on the quality of the writing, not the substance of the argument), went through with a red pen, crossing things out, rewriting, just scewered the entire thing.  Needless to say I was upset.  So, I gave the paper to my advisor (who, I assure you, comes as close to walking on water as anyone could) and asked him to tell me if it was as horrible as the red marks suggested it was. 

His reponse was "I am of three minds.  1/3 of the time, I agree with what you had written; 1/3 of the time I agree with the changes X made and 1/3 of the time I don't have a preference between what you wrote or what X changed it to."

So, what's to be learned from all this?  I'm not entirely certain, but whatever it is, it's made me feel fairly good.

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