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Reader query about undergraduate research

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In the comments section of our most recent "how can we help you?" thread, SSW writes: As an undergraduate student, I wonder what is the best way to choose a dissertation topic? Since my department does not provide many courses on the topic I am interested in, I have to read something by my own. I have read some companions and Philosophy Compass articles, is there anything else I can/should do? It's not entirely clear to me what SSW means when they ask about a 'dissertation topic.' For example, if they are asking about a PhD dissertation, then my answer is that it is probably much to early to think about that. On the other hand, if the question is about an undergrad thesis, then the question seems to me an apt one. Either way, though, I'm glad they asked these questions, as in thinking about them it occurred to me that I would advise something quite different than what they are currently doing. Over the years, I have heard some senior people in the profession caution against 'reading too much.' Sometimes I think this advice plays itself out in a bad way--such as when people submit or publish articles that seem ignorant of the literature (which in my experience happens more often than it should!). Nevertheless, I think there is real wisdom in the caution against 'reading too much.' Let me explain why. When I teach undergraduate courses, I rarely assign 'secondary sources' (i.e. philosophical commentary on original texts). I also know many other professional philosophers who do the same. Why? What is the rationale for focusing on primary texts? The short answer is that I don't want my students to prematurely hem themselves in by what other philosophers think on the subject. I want my students to think for themselves, that is, for them to figure out what they think before they find out what a bunch of other people have said. I base this teaching practice in part on my experience as a graduate. . .

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News source: The Philosophers' Cocoon

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