How to discuss academic work with care?


  1. To enhance creativity, nothing helps better than care. It is the same at all stages of academic life, where narcissistic troubles abound. Care is the way to go.
  2. Remember the efforts involved in producing academic knowledge. Writing a book or an article, even if one disagrees with its content, requires a considerable effort. Remember your own efforts and sacrifices.
  3. Compliments always do good. Criticisms do good as well and they help improve. But watch your tone ! There is a way to express disagreement without destroying people’s self-esteem.
  4. To acknowledge that the Other can be right. No doubt, the most difficult aspect in scientific debates, but that’s where hermeneutic charity begins!
  5. Discuss someone’s text on her own theoretical and empirical grounds, and help her advance on her own terrain, not on yours (not at first, at least). Science being a collaborative process and not a military conquest, the objective is not to massacre but to collaborate and improve.
  6. Avoid useless questions only aimed at establishing your own authority. Just avoid asking questions if you have nothing to ask.
  7. These suggestions might seem naïve and obvious. I am not saying that academics should not engage in intellectual controversies. But, like in all forms of communication, the medium crucially matters.

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
David Berliner (October 27, 2017). How to discuss academic work with care? David Berliner blog. Retrieved July 24, 2024 from

One thought on “How to discuss academic work with care?

  1. Alexandre Detroux


    Je voulais simplement vous signaler avoir lu ce billet ainsi que celui publié sur votre profil Academia (“Angoisses académiques”), et vous remercier d’avoir pris la peine (et l’audace) de partager ces pensées. Etant en train d’entamer une recherche doctorale à l’ULB, j’ai déjà pu percevoir certaines des caractéristiques décrites, en essayant dès lors de développer des stratégies de correction ou de compensation. Des points de vue comme le votre sont à cet égard éclairants.

    Bonne continuation,


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