October 12, 2022
Another one of those graduate student requests turned up in my e-mail inbox this week. This one referenced one of my AGMA Fall Technical Meeting papers, and the student had an interesting question about the methodology that was used to estimate relative costs. I am always flattered to be consulted this way. Writing a technical paper, or even a blog posting, can be a lonely activity and it is nice to know someone found what was published to be useful in their own work. Not everyone has to be an “expert” in all aspects of a field. There would not be so many rules about proper citations if every idea had to be taken back to first principles. Fewer plagiarism accusations would be levied if writers would follow the rules of giving credit where credit is due. As long as something is not taken out of context and author names are spelled correctly, very few complaints would be generated. I know this gets more difficult in the “creative arts” than it is in the sciences because there are fewer “story lines” possible. Gear Technology has one of the largest archives of key word-searchable articles in the gear industry. Those papers are viewed all over the world and are going to live forever on the Internet. Personally, I think it is very cool that my work will be available long after I am no longer available to comment on it. This student’s well founded question was a caution to me that clarity and Tran parity is much more important than a concise paragraph. We often struggle with this in technical writing; more than once a standards committee has had to be reminded that we are not penning a best seller. If a bit of repetition helps the reader use the document better we must “err” in that direction. So — to all would-be writers of technical papers: Internet immortality awaits you. But it comes at a price. Years later, you may be asked to expound on a point — unless you are willing to cover it very thoroughly in your original text.