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One of the challenges of advising students is working with students whose "quality control" expectations do not agree with that of the advisor. When such mismatches occur, how do we encourage them to provide "better" quality work. Note that it's not the number of hours being worked the concern, but rather issues like returning a marked-up manuscript with half of the important suggestions left unaddressed, or leaning too much on the advisor or more senior members of the group for help.

1 Answer 1

In my experience, teaching "quality control" in larger-scale projects is part of the enterprise, since (in mathematics, for example) standard coursework provides no inkling of this. That is, it is not typically the case that sloppy or flawed homework or exams are returned with detailed comments, for iterated corrections, to be repeated until the thing is acceptable. Rather, as we know, schoolwork is presented to students as a high-volume stream of disconnected small tasks, most of which truly do not merit "perfecting", but, rather, treating as a bulk-processing problem.

So the methodology and style of iterative improvement and "perfecting" a larger, months-or-years-long project is arguably a novelty to the student. The "solution" seems to be to just keep iterating the corrections, perhaps making the auxiliary point of the inefficiency of your making the same point several times.

I've had the opposite problem a few times, as well, namely, exaggerated attention to over-perfecting an initial fragment, effectively avoiding addressing the sequel and larger project.

Thus, I think that imparting a functional sense of editing and quality control is part of the task of the mentor/advisor/supervisor, although, yes, energy allocated to this takes away from the more literal scientific/intellectual tasks. Advisor's firm repetition of the standards is essentially the only constructive response, I think, since, for example, it seems infeasible to hope that novices can sufficiently critique each other, as they usually share the same inexperience.