As I write this, I’m a few days away from my first big homework deadline.
The first module in my MBA is Organisational Behaviour, and the entire grade is based on one paper, of four thousand, five hundred words.
Word-counts don’t scare me. I like writing.
However, I’d forgotten how much I dislike academic writing. Ten years or so ago, I studied for diplomas in anti money laundering, and then in financial crime prevention. Assessment was a mix of term papers and exams. In a glorious anachronism, the exams had to be written by hand. What fun that was.
I thought that Compliance folk were picky. Ha!
Stand by for some whining.
My heart dropped when I was told that I had to submit my work in Microsoft Word.
“How about a PDF? That can be opened in Word.”
“No. Microsoft Word only.”
I grumbled under my breath (or on mute, at least). Like most people, I’ve grown up with Word at work. To me, it represents everything dull, mechanical and depressing about the corporate world. Still. They must have their reasons.
“Citations and references must be in the Harvard style.”
“Chinos and a polo shirt?” Oh, I’m such a wit.
Tumbleweed blew through the Zoom call.
“Ahem. What I mean is, what is Harvard style?”
“THE Harvard style guide is in the chat.”
A thought occurred to me.
“Wait! Microsoft Word does references doesn’t it?”
“Yes. But not in the Harvard Style.”
I checked. My version of Word does 12 styles of referencing - including “Harvard-Anglia”.
“It’s close. But I advise you to check it very carefully, by hand.”
“Will I be marked down if I use Harvard-Anglia?”
“So, to summarise, we have to use Microsoft Word, which allows for 12 different styles of referencing notation, BUT, if we use one of those, we will be marked down, because the University has a preference for another style.”
Years of experience taught me that I was on the verge of getting written into some sort of book, probably in red pen.
“Thank you.” I beamed.
The task that we’ve been set, is to use business assessment tools to review our business (current or former) and make recommendations. I’m delighted. I’m never short of an opinion on anything.
Someone else piped up.
“If we are giving our own opinions - we don’t need citations, do we?”
“Oh yes. Anything less than twelve citations and you’ll be marked down.”
“Let me try to explain. Stuart. What is one of your recommendations?”
“Umm…I might recommend that the company installs a Board of Directors.”
“Well, to have some oversight of the executives, bring in some experience….”
“Why’s that good?”
“CITATION! Strengthen your point with a reference to someone well-respected saying the same thing.”
So, I’ll write a paragraph on the importance of good corporate governance, and then re-write it, to shoehorn in a reference to some old white man who wrote a similar paragraph many moons ago.
Way back, I read a book by Pierre Bourdieu called Distinction. (I suffered from a bout of sociology for a while.) Pierre posited that groups distinguish themselves through artifice. The upper class liked champagne. Then, champagne became accessible to the masses. The upper class then differentiated themselves by drinking only vintage champagne. Art is interpreted through codes. If you know the code, then you know what modern art is good, and what is a paint spill.
Jargon is like that. Every business has its own language, mostly to distinguish itself from other businesses. (Tribes, if you will.) Academia is the same. Certain formulae and conventions identify someone as part of the club.
Now - I’m off to find a citation for “Fire Everyone!”
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