Defining

Journals are good places to ask yourself questions about what you are doing with specific assignments, in specific courses, and in your major. In the following entries, we see students in different disciplines trying to define or explain to themselves what, exactly, their fields of study are really about:

5/2 Sociologists study groups for various reasons. They teach us to recognize how a group functions, how to seek out and influence the leaders, how to direct and control the masses. There are questions of ethics raised. It is taught as a process. The process is all-important. . . . Taking apart a jigsaw puzzle, sociologists learn to unravel and identify distinct parts of the process.

3/7 Unlike math, where you must learn how to add and subtract before you can multiply and divide, philosophy is a smattering of different things with no exact and precise starting place. In philosophy we could start anywhere and end up anywhere without ever having gone anywhere, but we would have uncovered many rocks along the way. Ah Hah! This is our task: uncovering rocks along the way.

On one level, it simply helps to put any concept or term into your own words to try to make sense of it in language you understand. Each of the writers here writes his own definition and so increases the chances of truly understanding the concept.

In addition, as we become immersed in our own disciplines, we begin to take too much for granted. Sometimes your instructors stop questioning, at least in public, the basic assumptions around which their disciplines are actually built—assumptions that need periodic reexamining if the disciplines are to remain healthy. Journals are good places in which to ask yourself why you are studying what.

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