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How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment
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How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  54 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Excellence. Originality. Intelligence. Everyone in academia stresses quality. But what exactly is it, and how do professors identify it?

In the academic evaluation system known as "peer review," highly respected professors pass judgment, usually confidentially, on the work of others. But only those present in the deliberative chambers know exactly what is said. Michele Lamo
Hardcover, 330 pages
Published March 1st 2009 by Harvard University Press
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Jul 21, 2013 Nat added it
It is fun to read social scientists studying your little subculture. In this case, the author did a bunch of interviews with academics serving on interdisciplinary fellowship committees (ACLS, some Ivy League Society of Fellows, Woodrow Wilson, etc.). She got them to try to explain how they go about deciding what proposals get funding.

It turns out that history cleans up in these competitions, in contrast with other disciplines like philosophy and English. That's because (according to the interv
Jessica Zu
Believe it or not, this is the best book for my socialization into literary studies XD
Sep 01, 2011 Sharon marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: never-tried
A better title (though less catchy) would be How Academics Think. That's really what this book is about--unless you're a PhD candidate, it's not about your professors. Though they're often the same people, the hat you wear deep in academia and the hat you wear dealing with underclassmen is very different.

The book is rather dry and academic, but I probably would have read it anyway if it had been about professors interacting with undergrads. A better source of insight on that is Rebekah Nathan's
Don't read this if you are thinking you will learn something about how professors think. Title is a misnomer. This is a very specific book about a study of peer-review in terms of how faculty look at grant proposals and the like to fund, publish, etc. within the structure of academic excellence as percieved by disciplines. I am always leery when terms can't be defined and yet each quote in the book about academic excellence is of the 'I know it when I sees it" variety. Odd also that it didn't in ...more
overgeneralized title. More like "a sociologist's observations [and decoding of self-serving interview responses from panelists] re how things work in social sciences fellowship/grant panels for mostly early career awards in interdisciplinary subareas of the social sciences and humanities". Even as a study of "peer review", it's quite limited -- no coverage of the extensive literature on interrater reliability, no consideration of the effects of innovations such as double-blind procedure, no men ...more
This book is smart and thorough but written in a very accessible style. My recent experience with non-fiction books is that they are either dumbed down for a general audience or written in an obtuse style and so filled with jargon and citations to other works that they are nearly unreadable. This book manages to avoid both problems. Perhaps because she is conscious of her subject matter, the author manages to embody in her own work many of the qualities of academic excellence that she discusses ...more
Inaptly named. This book is about how humanities and social science professors make judgments about the relative merits of grant applications in a context of disciplinary heterogeneity and a lack of agreed standards for worthwhile scholarship. Quite interesting. Perhaps also useful if you have wistful dreams of ever being awarded funding for academic research.
Sam Grace
Aug 25, 2009 Sam Grace marked it as to-read
Recommended to Sam by: Rex at Savage Minds
I look forward to reading this because of the Savage Minds review. Here's a chunk:

"It is the best description yet of what we are looking for in proposals for funding dissertation research. For those of us who went to elite school, we have heard this sort of talk about what good proposals look like—it is part of the oral lore that is passed down from one old boy to the next. There are even a few pieces floating out there—Sydel Silverman’s and Adam Przeworski’s—on what funders look for. But this
This will be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about the peer review process, particularly regarding funding. The author observed a number of social science/humanities panels, but her findings should be equally relevant to grad students/postdocs/junior faculty in other disciplines too, since even in the "hard sciences" the people evaluating your proposal are human beings using similar criteria.

As others have commented, the title doesn't fit (at least the part before the colon). Studen
Dee Anne
This book was a bit more "how professors make decisions in the peer review by committee system" and not so much "how professors think." In that, I was disappointed. I would have preferred a more in depth look at the different disciplines in their own environments and what the professors view as valuable work when they don't have to compromise in a committee. However, it was an interesting look at the peer review/grant funding process.
A really outstanding read (at least for someone who works in academics). Really accessible sociological research; sheds light on the politics and decision-making habits of faculty in a number of different humanities and social science disciplines.
A look at peer review and how professors judge each other in terms of academia. Not so much a look at the culture of professors as a look at how they are forced to act in small groups determining the fate of other professors.
James Klagge
Interesting for comparing how people in different disciplines view quality. Author interviewed panelists from multidisciplinary grant-making panels in humanities and social sciences.
Fascinating book about the process of peer review, the formation and evolution of academic disciplines in the social sciences, and the evolving notion of excellence in academia.
Nov 05, 2009 Bruce added it
Shows how different various disciplines define "excellence." Any academic who says "I know excellence when I see it" should be embarrassed.
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