My very good student, who had showed me an outline/draft of every essay so far (that was already very good), came to talk to me about the final essay last semester. She knew what sources she wanted to use, and had lots of little ideas about what she wanted to say, but didn’t know how to tie them altogether into a coherent thesis.

We chatted for a bit, I suggested she eliminate one extraneous line of investigation, I asked her if she saw any patterns, I asked again, she came up with nothing, so I suggested that a big theme that tied all her little ideas together was “rights.” The different groups of people that she wanted to talk about all defined their rights in various ways and were facing challenges in achieving those rights, so developing a big claim about “rights” should serve as an umbrella and to encourage her to make some analysis about an issue fundamental to human nature, and how it operated in the context we were studying.

But I wonder if I did too much of the work for her. She still had to write the essay and make it all coherent (which she did quite well at), but perhaps I robbed her of the moment of real inspiration and analysis?