Category Archives: Study

Equipped for the long journey

Dear Answer Person,

Some of my classes at Duke were bad, and some were good. Some were good, but I wasn’t in any condition to appreciate them or learn from them. I assume that many people could say this about their college experience.

My question is: why does it seem now like a few key things I’ve read since then would have been a perfect foundation to have to be more equipped to deal with those good classes I wasn’t ready for?

Good question. I too remember not being ready for a lot of things I read as an undergraduate (Robbe-Grillet, Calvino, Garcia Marquez), and only really “getting it” after more experience (both in life and in the classroom).  I’m going to guess that the answer has something to do with faculty forgetting where they were – intellectually and emotionally – at that age to construct an appropriate syllabus.

Exciting graffito

While taking a break to use the bathroom in the library, I discovered written upon the stall door the exact text needed to pull my thesis together.  But, how do I cite it?  I looked through the MLA, APA and Chicago guides, but there is no listing for bathroom graffiti.  How should I cite this?

Well aren’t you a clever person?!  And thanks for informing us about this vandalism; I’ll relay the information to Housekeeping so they can remove it.  By the way, this is exactly the sort of question our reference librarians answer at Ask Us Now!

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I’ve been straining with this one, because of my strong urge to express myself with an answer worthy of your question, an answer of sufficient girth and gravity to allow you to easily plop the citation into your paper.

You’re correct that APA and MLA don’t offer guidance on citing graffiti specifically. I recommend checking The Chicago Manual of Style on Informally Published Material.

Great books

Why is the Great Gatsby such a good book?  How about Catch 22?  I’m not even an English major and I think they’re great. [3557C]

One doesn’t need to major in English to appreciate great works of literature. One mark of great writing is its impact on future writers. Another is the work’s ability to transcend cultures and time. Shakespeare, for instance, is still read today for these reasons (and all the great car chase scenes!).

The Great Gatsby is about unrestrained materialism and immorality (sound familiar?) and is cited by many authors as a major influence. Catch-22 is outstanding because it illustrates the absurdity of war, a point that apparently needs to be made over and over again. Furthermore, it features an outstanding anti-hero. If you like Catch-22, I highly recommend an earlier example of an anti-hero in a novel about the absurdity or war, Jaroslav Hasek’s The Good Soldier Svejk [891.86 H346AE].

Prattle all the way to the bank

Why do Pratt people have to do 3 times as much work as Trinity people? [3554A]

The library is one of those places on campus where all students can come together in harmony to pursue academic excellence. The gateway between Perkins and Bostock Libraries quite literally links Engineering (represented by CIEMAS) and Arts and Sciences (represented by the academic quad).

However, since your question suggests you might be a Pratter, I would point out two facts: first, the university requires that students in both Pratt and Trinity successfully complete a total of at least 34 course credits; second, a recent article at (“Most lucrative college degrees,” 24 July 2009) claims that “engineering diplomas account for 12 of the 15 top-paying majors.” The article, quoting a 2008 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which tracks college graduates’ job offers, suggests that recent engineering graduates can expect an initial salary up to double that of their humanities counterparts.

Duke graduation rate

What is the undergrad graduation rate for each class from 1937 to 2008?

A knowledgeable archivist isn’t so sure that the University consistently tracked graduation rates.  You may need to calculate this yourself from raw numbers.  You should first check with the Registrar’s Office to see if they kept that stat on a regular basis.  The University Archives has statistics from the Registrar’s Office back to the 1920s, and you could go in and look through the records. See the Inventory of the Office of the University Registrar Records, 1853 – 2000.   For instance, the annual statistical reports they used to publish included number of attritions, and would tell how many students withdrew.  From the total enrollment, you could subtract the attritions, then figure out a graduation rate.  (You should probably consult with a statistician to make sure you’re making a valid calculation.)

There is a web page on on Graduation and retention rates – Undergraduate that starts in the mid-1990s, provided by the Provost’s Office of Institutional Research.

Immigration studies

Good day,

Where can I go to get a phd in immigration studies or something reasonably close to that? I am interested in any programs in the US, Canada or Britain, but I am having a difficult time finding universities that approach immigration evenly loosely, eg as an offshoot of sociology. So far I have found a program at York University that looks good.


I think you need to identify key researchers in this area and go to where they are (after verifying that they’re likely to stay).  You very likely will want to gravitate toward a school of public policy, although I’m sure many sociologists and economists and political scientists deal with the subject.  I would search literature in databases such as PAIS to determine who’s doing research in your specific areas of interest.

It appears that there are interdisciplinary programs relating to immigration at some universities, but you may not be able to get a PhD in “immigration studies,” per se.  An example is at UC, San Diego and Arizona State has a “graduate certificate” in immigration studies.  These may not offer a PhD, but it indicates interest in the subject there by researchers.

Honorary degrees

What are the generally accepted, legitimate fields in which honorary doctorates are awarded by academic institutions?

I know of no generally accepted rules for this. Each institution will make it’s own rules, but aren’t these inherently illegitimate? I mean, they’re specifically for people who aren’t following the degree requirements and can be tailored to the individual receiving the award. I’m sure that some universities are more rigorous about granting honorary doctorates (e.g., they want the person to have performed feats of academic rigor, or to have contributed greatly to society), while others grant the honor to large donors.


Dear Sir:I have a question about plagiarism. My master thesis is an empirical comparison about two statistical methods. I need to address the mathematical theorems and definitions in the chapter of “research method” . Of course I did not invent these methods. I organize the theorems from my reference books so that what I am comparing can be understood. Also those theorems are not found by those authors. They only organize and write these concepts in their books. I copy the exact statement of those mathematical theorems and I cite that “The following sections are mainly cited from McNeil (2005) “. But I did not use quotation marks for those copied theorem statements. Is it acceptable? For example, I paste one short paragraph here.

The following sections are mainly cited from McNeil (2005).

Theorem 3.1: Extreme Value Theorem
Let X, Y be independent random variables. M =max{ X }………….

Sorry, but this isn’t the place for detailed answers to serious questions. Or, for quick answers. For any questions regarding proper citation style, you need to speak with your instructor or faculty adviser, since there are different ways of doing it and only they know what is acceptable to them. You cite the book, but in some cases you may need to cite a paper number on which the theorems can be located.