By Michele A. Hernández

A former admissions officer at Dartmouth university finds how the world's so much hugely selective faculties relatively make their judgements.

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Extra resources for A Is for Admission: The Insider's Guide to Getting into the Ivy League and Other Top Colleges

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You will not be able to provide answers if you have not directly looked for them. But isn't this premise a bit too simplistic? Isn't it possible to have tacit knowledge without having asked a question first? We often learn by direct experience unprovoked by interrogation. We observe first and then ask why. Can't we learn from data even if we haven't posed a specific question? Can't research proceed without questions? 39 WHAT ARE YOUR QUESTIONS? Of course it can. At issue here, though, is how successful your project will be if you plan it without attention to specific questions.

You move from general principles to particular instances, from theories to facts. Is one mode of inquiry "better" than the other? Does "true science" require deduction? Is induction second-rate? For centuries, philosophers have pondered these questions, some arguing for induction, some arguing for deduction. Most agree that deductive research, so common in the natural and physical sciences, is scientific. But fewer agree about inductive research, so widespread in the social sciences. Some argue that induction cannot be scientific, others argue that as long as induction is accompanied by rigorous methods, it, too, is scientific.

Send a research assistant to the library to review past literature? Information-gathering is essential, but it should not be your first step. Your first step should be to articulate a set of specific research questions. Good design flows from clear goals. Do you want to know how many undergraduates have been sexually harassed? Conduct a confidential student survey. Do you want to know whether the problem is worse at the graduate level? Include graduate students as well. Do you want to know whether a workshop for faculty and students would decrease the incidence of harassment and increase the chances that people who were harassed would come forward?

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