What is Political Science? Reflections on Intellectual Honesty

I asked a friend of mine, a talented writer, to be my writing coach. I wanted her to read through several chapters of the dissertation and give me feedback on common errors that I make and issues of writing style that I should improve.

But she gave me much more than that.

By instinct or the grace of God, she highlighted all of the sections where my writing was the clearest, my argument the most well-laid out and my writing the strongest. The results shocked me; they were all the sections that I was going to delete "because that's not political science."

Somehow, through my graduate training, I got an idea in my head of what "Political Science is." I also got it in my head that whatever it is, it has nothing to do with my instinctual way of dealing with information, of processing or interpreting data. So what did I do? I frequently wrote work, and then erased the sections where my voice was the strongest because they "were not PS." Lord knows how many papers I have deleted the best sections of, out of my mistaken beliefs.

Later, when my chair got a hold of the diss, he commented that the Introduction (one of the chapters my friend helped me with) was "boldly and beautifully written." And that's when it hit me.

Authenticity shows in scholarship. The best work is intellectually honest for the scholar who produces it.

During my graduate career, I made my life so difficult, by assuming that what came naturally to me was somehow "wrong" when really it is the only way to go about this enterprise. Now that I feel free to say what I think, there is an ease in my work. That's not to say that there isn't hours and hours of editing, rethinking and reframing. There is. But the effort is now at saying exactly what I mean and being more precise with language, rather than shoving myself into a box that I didn't fit well in to begin with.