Everyone interviewed historian Wang Fansen: In the formal writing of the paper, the following nine tips should be made.

2020-06-20 | By Historian | Filed in: World.

Have a choice in learning

When it was time to write the paper, Be able to take and give up, Because of the information explosion, There are too many books to read, Therefore, we must construct a knowledge tree of our own. First of all, we must have a knowledge tree of our own so that we can hang related things on that tree. However, we must not hang irrelevant things constantly, and we must slowly give up some things that cannot be hung. Then, with your problems and areas of concern, let this knowledge tree have trunk and branches and leaves. However, how will this knowledge tree be formed? The first step is that you must be very familiar with useful books or data in your field of concern.


Form your knowledge tree

Yesterday, I also consulted Academician Yu-sheng Lin, who is already in his seventies this year. When I told him that I was going to give a speech today, I asked him, “If you talk about this topic, how would you talk about it?” He said: “Only one thing is that the important five or six books need to be read several times.” Because Mr. Yu-sheng Lin is a student of Heyek and several modern thought masters at the University of Chicago, an important part of their training is intensive reading of the original.

This sentence is very reasonable. Although you cannot read only those important books, the five or six books will gradually form the backbone of your knowledge tree. After that, you can refer to this framework and put aside irrelevant things for the time being. Life is long, There is no limit to knowledge, You can’t read all the good books in the world, Therefore, you should learn to choose and understand that you cannot read all the books you are interested in, and once you read all the books you are interested in, you will probably end up like the owner of the second-hand bookstore on Princeton Street, because reading too much is not knowledge in your field of concern, it is just scattered money for you.


Grasp Tools

At this stage, we must master the language and appropriate tools. It is certainly better to have a foreign language that can read very fluently, another language that can at least understand the title of the article, and learn more, but at least one language, whether English, Japanese, French, etc., must have a language that can read relevant books very fluently, which is the minimum premise.

Once this tool is gone, your vision will be greatly limited, because language is like a skylight, without which your room will be closed. Why do you want to understand the title? Because there will be no important articles and you don’t know. If you don’t even understand the title, you don’t know how to find someone to help you or check the relevant data yourself. Other tools, whether statistics or any other tools, you must also master more, because you will not have time to learn such tools in the future.


Breaking through the boundaries between disciplines

Interdisciplinary learning should be regarded as a very important thing, but the things involved in interdisciplinary learning must be helpful to your knowledge tree. You should learn to steal a few shots in other fields, absorb some concepts in other fields, and generate another different inspiration for the problems you care about, but don’t overflow without return. Why did you steal those shots? In recent decades, people have found that the most innovative part of science or humanities takes place at the intersection of disciplines. Why is this so? Because most of our current disciplines were formed in the 19th century in the West, and China lent them back.

When the division of these knowledge disciplines was formed in the 19th century, many of them had the thoughts and academic background of that era. For example, President Li of Academia Sinica specialized in physical chemistry. The reason why he won the Nobel Prize was that he worked at the junction of physics and chemistry. Like the Nobel Prize in Economics, if the prizes awarded in the past 20 years are just sidewalks in the traditional economic prizes, will there be such things in classical economics? Even psychologists will win the Nobel Prize in Economics, and even John Nash, a mathematician, will win the Nobel Prize in Economics. Why? Because they all made breakthroughs at the junction of disciplines, disciplines and disciplines, platforms and platforms. In the platform itself, there have been too many searches in the original core of the discipline, so there may not be great innovations, so why cross-domain learning is a very important thing.

Often a master’s thesis or doctoral thesis is the most important, the most critical, Is an important concept of governance, And usually you can’t catch it in this subject, because you have been in this subject for too long, you have been taking photos in this small warehouse with a flashlight for too long, and forget that there are other things that can better explain the phenomenon of your materials, but these things can be met but not found. Why did John Nash, a mathematician, win the Nobel Prize in mathematics? Why did his doctoral thesis in game theory win the Nobel Prize in economics decades later? Because he took the course of Introduction to Economics in college, he thought mathematics could be used to think about economy, and at the beginning, he did not expect this thing to be so useful. He made a breakthrough at the junction of mathematics and economics. Sometimes there is no big relationship in this part of economics or in this part of mathematics, but when the two are added together, sparks will pop out.


The topic of the paper should be extensible.

For a master’s or doctoral student, if he chooses the wrong topic, he will fail. If he chooses the right topic, he still has a 70% chance of winning. This problem is worth thinking about by the students of No.1 and No.1. In fact, your first year is to be spent on this. You should constantly discuss with the teacher to find a meaningful and extensible problem, and it should not be too difficult. I was a humanities director at the National Science Council. When I left, there were 7,000 applications and 14,000 bags each time, which had to be sent to 14,000 professors for examination. Of course I can’t watch so much, but I have an important task, that is, to watch complaints. Some complainants think: “My research plan is very good and my works are very good, so I will appeal.” Only about 10% of the complaints passed, so my responsibility is to take a look at 90% of the cases that failed before they were formally decided. There are several things that are most impressive and often discussed, that is, this topic does not need to be done any more. The topic itself is not developmental, so it makes me more sure that it is very important to choose a meaningful, extensible, controllable and manageable topic.

My students often choose very difficult topics. I said you must not do this, because no one will carefully look at the difficulty of your research. For difficult topics, you need to spend more time reading historical materials to get something. You have to squeeze a lot of things to screen out a little content, so you’d better choose a topic with moderate difficulty.

I have written several books, and I think my heart is the same for the flowers in each book. Although I am not satisfied with anything I write, I have racked my brains in the process to write it well. So far, many people think that my best book is the one I wrote when I first arrived at the Institute of History and Language in my twenties. The time I spent on that book was not long. Most of the manuscript of that book was written by Mr. Xu Tianming and I in the military barracks at the same time, and it was also written with my old notes. Over the years, many publishing houses in mainland China have repeatedly requested the publication of my previous books, especially this one. I said, “No.” Because I use my previous reading notes, I am afraid there are wrong words in the quotation, because I have to go out at any time in the army barracks, I have to gather at any time, and I have no books at hand, how can I check them well? However, if I were to correct it again, I would not have the strength to correct it because I quoted too many books.

Why do you give this example? I thought about it later, the reason why the book is better may be because the topic is extensible and the topic is likely to fluctuate. Many people think that my best book should be the one published by Cambridge University, but I think my best book must be written in Chinese, because I can master this language and I cannot master English superbly. Reading and writing any language must be practiced until you can take three points at will. Then you can say that you have a complete understanding of this language and be adept at. If you cannot reach three points at will, it means you are still groping.

Returning to what I just said, in fact, I really want to write every book and every paper well. But some west can’t write well, why? Because the topic chosen at the beginning was not good enough. Therefore, only after selecting the topic can all your training and efforts be valuable. I hereby suggest that you should do the work of selecting topics as soon as possible, and the materials to be processed for the selected topics should be concentrated and not too scattered, because master’s students may only have three years and doctoral students may only have five years. If your materials are too scattered, reading or reading data may take most of your time, leaving you no spare capacity to think. Moreover, this topic should be suitable for your sexual orientation. If you don’t know statistics or hate numbers, but choose a paper that depends on statistics, it is impossible to do well.


Get into the habit of writing in accordance with academic format.

Another basic training, At ordinary times, no matter you write 10,000 words, 30,000 words or 50,000 words, you must form the habit of following academic norms. To make him natural, That is to say, the footnotes, the format, Cultivate to be a part of your life at the beginning of your graduate school. If this habit is not formed, People will think that this paper is not rigorous, After that, it will take a lot of time to revise, Because of the scale of your paper, Maybe hundreds of pages, If you make a mistake at first, Later, the beginning changed to the end, It must be very time-consuming and laborious, so we should get into the habit from the beginning, because we are writing papers instead of essays. There are certain regulations on which comma should be, which book title should be, which quotation marks should be used, and which punctuation marks should be used in what. It is good to write in Chinese and there are a lot of abbreviations in English.

When Taiwan’s knowledge was still very closed in the 1960s, a man came back from the United States and said, “There is a terrible situation in the United States because there is a very terrible person.” Someone asked him why he was extremely upset, and he said, “Because this person’s works are quoted everywhere.” His name is ibid. The so-called ibid is the same as the former author. The word was developed from Latin, which has a lot of abbreviations, such as et.al., which was jointly compiled by two people. There is an English book The Chicago Manual of Style that specifically explains these writing norms. You should learn the writing standards of Chinese and English as soon as possible, practice slowly, and finally write according to the nature, so that you can write articles that conform to the standards.


Make good use of the library

It should be the most important place in the postgraduate stage. You don’t have to read every book, but you need to know which books there are. I remember when I was a student, new books would be placed on the wall of the library, and the most important thing as a student was to have a look at the title of the book. To some extent, it is enough to know the cover of the book, but it is still different from playing computer. You should actually get familiar with the book, touch it and look at the catalogue. I know that the title of the book can be found from the computer now, but I still cherish the feeling of visiting Browse’s new books regularly, or seeing books in related fields look like what. An academician of Academia Sinica is an information professor at Harvard University. He told me that when his creativity was at its peak, he went to the library of their information department every week to read important information journals.

Therefore, the library should be the most familiar place for people who are graduate students. However, remember that it is not important not to take the time to see it. You live in an era of rampant information, which is different from the era when I grew up in an era of poor information. Therefore, you who grew up in this era should be able to make a choice. I often watch my students quote some third-rate papers, but they attract them with relish. I feel sorry for him because I emphasize reading useful and valuable things.


Leave time to think carefully.

Also remember to reserve some time for yourself to think. Whether a paper can be superb or fascinating is very important to make conceptual thinking on the basis of phenomena. However, I am not saying that we must take the theoretical route, but reminding everyone to take another two or three steps at the general level to conceptualize what you see.

Really understand, what you see is what? Is the overall meaning what? The overall outline is what? Don’t be drowned by minor issues. Although minor issues are your most important beginning, you should always leave some time to think carefully and settle down slowly. Conceptualize is a very difficult thing to teach. I remember when I was studying, a teacher promised to teach students how to conceptualize, but it never happened because it was very difficult to teach. What I want to remind is that when you are submerged by a lot of materials and minor issues, you should jump out and think about what is the significance of what you see. This meaning has not been widely linked to the value of knowledge at a larger level.

After Mr. Fu Sinian came to Taiwan, he was also the director of the Institute of History and Language of Academia Sinica and the president of the National Taiwan University. The National Taiwan University has a Fu Zhong that rings 21 times an hour and strikes 21 times. There used to be a man who wrote a book called “Twenty-One Bells”, which was very sensational at that time. At that time, he explained the 21 rounds by saying: Because the students of the National Taiwan University are very good, the 21 rounds are a salute to welcome the head of state.

Not long ago, I found out that the National Taiwan University had erected a bronze medal under every important historic site. I carefully looked at Fu Zhong’s explanation and realized that it was because Fu Sinian once said when he was president of the National Taiwan University: “People only have 21 hours a day, and the other three hours are for thinking.” That’s why it’s called twenty-one. I think this sentence is very reasonable, but I think three hours may be too much, because graduate students are very busy, but at least 30 minutes a day, one hour to think, think about you saw what? Learn to jump to a higher level than what you see to think.


Find a model for learning

When I first came to study in the United States, my scalp was extremely heavy every time I wrote a report, because our English report had 30 or 40 pages and 160 pages if there were four courses in a semester, but you had to learn footnotes from scratch. Later, I found a good way, that is, every time I want to write, I put one of my favorite papers beside me. Although the topic he writes has nothing to do with what I write, I always watch how he writes, look at his footnotes, read a few lines, and then I start writing.

Just like Pavarotti, the most famous tenor, always holds a handkerchief when singing plays, because he said, “Going on stage is like going to hell. It’s too nervous.” In order to overcome his nervousness, he has the habitual action of holding a white handkerchief. I think the printed version of that paper was like my white handkerchief, which enabled me to start writing this report well. I learned how to think, how to conceive, how to take care of all and how to use English as footnotes. It is the best way to get started by reading a master’s works well and starting to imitate and learn from him. Gradually, you also begin to write your own things. I also often encourage my students to go abroad for half a year or a year. For example, the National Science and Technology Council now has all kinds of opportunities to broaden its horizons. It can know that restaurants are selling some what cuisine now. When it comes back, it will only know how to start when it comes back to cooking.

Editor: Students

Reprinted from Public Number: Historical Research Newsletter

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