Professor: So the primary growing medium, what the plants draw nutrients from, is actually soil, not water.
Student: So the article was wrong about that?
Student: Too bad, it seems like a great topic, but I guess…
Professor: Wait a minute, just because chinampas were not technically hydroponic doesn't mean this couldn't be an appropriate topic for your paper.
Professor: Chinampas were still a great pre-modern technological achievement.
Professor: I mean, they enabled the Aztecs to grow plenty of food in an area without much available farmland.
Student: But I wondered why the author wrote that chinampas were hydroponic.
Professor: Well it's pretty common for writers to generalize, say use a term like hydroponics to describe other types of agriculture.
Professor: Personally, I would never say hydroponic except for plants growing in liquid.
Professor: The crops on chinampas definitely benefited from the water surrounding them, but… hydroponic…
Student: OK. So I will go with chinampas but leave out with the hydroponics part.
Professor: Actually, there's an important lesson here.
Professor: We should pay attention to what happened in history but also how historical events are presented.
Professor: Why, for example, would writers use a word like hydroponics so casually?
Student: I guess 'cause it's a popular topic people want to read about?
Professor: Or to help modern-day reader understand something historical, maybe these writers think a familiar frame of reference is needed.
Student: Well, that article was in a popular magazine, not a scholarly journal for historians.
Professor: OK. But historians sometimes do the same thing.
Student: So I guess then that all historians might not describe chinampas in quite the same way either.
Professor: Good point. Why not look into that too?
Professor: And include it along with your description and analysis.