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Thoughts on blogging, academic teaching, and the use of sources

It’s been a while since I’ve been blogging here, which doesn’t mean I haven’t been blogging, although the live blogging from the EU Council was kind of exhausting.

Yet, in the meantime, over at the Transparency International blog I’ve been writing about the current MEP corruption scandal. And on the Th!nk about it! blogging competition on the topic of “Water” I’ve been selected as one of the winners, making me and others travel to Portugal in two weeks for a reporting trip (yeah!).

The jury says about me:

Ronny has clearly done his research well, and he is  well informed about the political aspects of the topic, especially in Europe. His style is that of an investigative journalist. He also refers to other TH!NKers in his posts.

In fact, all I did was searching for publicly available yet reliable information, information that anyone could have dug up. See on your own here (where you find all my posts) – nothing I used for writing was found with particularly sophisticated means.

One may call this investigative journalism style, but in a way it is just something you are doing as a political scientist and blogger all the time: Searching for reliable information on a topic of interest and writing texts that clearly reference these sources. In science, this search is ideally based on theory and guided by the right methods. In blogging it’s more about the story. In both cases, however, the use of sources is crucial

Which brings me to the subject I’m kind of busy with these days:

I’m currently reading and grading essays that my students have been writing for a course on The Political System of Germany in the European Context that I’ve been teaching last semester. Having read a good number of these essays, I have realised that I should have paid a little more attention to the work with sources, even with the majority of students already being in their second year.

The meticulous work with sources and the judgement on what sources to use and which ones not to use is extremely important for academic work – as it is for well-informed civil activism or blogging. And, that’s what I’ve seen over the last days, this meticulousness does not come on its own, even when students mainly work with sources that usually respect these rules.

So while one may take this for granted at some point, we who are teaching political science should not forget to put a lot of emphasis on working methods and in particular the correct use of sources during our courses. We shall do so even when these courses do not have a focus on methods and even when these basic methods are also taught in separate courses. I haven’t done it enough this time, but will do next time.

PS: Until then, as an academic and blogger, I recommend reading: “Why don’t journalists link to primary sources?“.

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