Scholarship at the Source

Looking to "primary evidence" in scholarship and research

By Kimber Williams

The opening of the SCLC archive and the acquisition of the Langmuir collection coincide with a significant new commitment by Emory leaders to emphasize the use of original sources in scholarship and research.

After months of campus-wide dialogue, the theme “primary evidence” has been selected as the focus for Emory’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), cited as a fundamental way to strengthen the central tenet of the university’s intellectual life. Selecting the topic was a critical effort for Emory as it prepares for a reaffirmation of accreditation review in 2014 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

Discussion culminated with town hall meetings earlier this year, where four themes were presented: primary evidence, world view, sustainability, and engaged learning. The final recommendation of the QEP Selection Committee has been accepted by the SACS leadership team, says Sarah McPhee, art history professor and cochair of the committee.

The goal was to select a well-defined topic “that created a measureable and fundamental improvement in the nature of undergraduate education,” McPhee says. The possibilities for applying the theme at Emory are vast; in MARBL, for instance, evidence indicates a growing student demand for work with original documents.

“In a society that has witnessed a rising flood of misinformation and half-truths, along with a decline in trust of our major institutions,” said President James Wagner, “wrestling with primary evidence has become a kind of civic imperative.”

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