The foundations of scholarship: Original sources

September 3, 2019

Bowers 1964-sm.jpgI am always telling my students to find and cite the original sources rather than relying on secondary sources. In the work I do on academic misconduct, the work of William Bowers is often cited as a seminal study in the field. The problem is that Bowers’s original work is hard to get your hands on. I was able to find a copy of his 1966 doctoral dissertation, but the original 1964 book seemed almost impossible to find. The two sources have exactly the same title. Although both texts are based on the same content, it is presented in different ways in both texts.

I can say this because I’ve now read both sources in their entirety.

Thanks to our amazing librarians at the University of Calgary, who were able to track down a copy of Bowers’s original 1964 work. Through the inter-library loan system, they were able to request the book from another library (thanks, University of Waterloo!) and have it sent to the university where I work so I could read it.

It is a beautiful volume, obviously produced on a typewriter with painstaking detail. This work was a true labour of love. I so appreciate having the opportunity to read it for myself. I now understand Bowers’s work much better. (I purposely do not offer a synopsis of his work in this blog post, so as to encourage others to go read the original works themselves, rather than relying on someone else’s summary!) Although more updated studies have been published since then, this nevertheless remains an important foundational book in my field. I am delighted to have had the privilege to read it.

I encourage anyone who wants to undertake deep scholarship in a particular field to find the original works upon which the field was built. If you can’t find the books, ask your friendly neighbourhood librarian for help. You might be surprised how they can help you be a better scholar.

References:

Bowers, W. J. (1964). Student dishonesty and its control in college. New York: NY: Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University.

Bowers, W. J. (1966). Student dishonesty and its control in college. (Doctor of Philosophy). Columbia University, New York.

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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.


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