Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A stupid question for the super-researchers

Here's a simple question for my colleagues, friends and all the academics I know who seem to churn out learned articles all the time. It's one I've never heard discussed and it's probably quite naive, but here goes anyway.

Quite simply, how do you keep up with the volume of critical work produced?

Call it citation anxiety.

I work in literary studies. There are probably a couple of hundred thousand others across the world, most of them writing books and articles. There are probably a couple of thousand writing pieces more or less relevant to my focus (masculinity, Wales, the interwar period), including those producing works of theory. If they each produce one paper a year - at a conservative estimate - which I need to read to make my own output relevant and up to date, how do I find the time?

Whenever I write anything, I worry that it's already been done, or that I've missed something really relevant that my readers all know about. I can narrow the search to particular journals, but there are also publications I'll never hear about, or have access too.

And yet my esteemed colleagues must have a solution to this. They find the time, amongst teaching, and admin and developing new research interests and sleeping, to keep abreast of their fields. How do you find the texts, then decide what not to read, then process it all?

Spill the beans!


Ewarwoowar said...

I can't help you there Voley, but I've often wondered about that subject when it comes to fiction writing.

If I wrote a short story blissfully unaware of anyone writing anything similar, what would I do when the Ghanian author Tsotsobe Mwandari-Essien gets in touch with me saying that I had plagiarised his 2005 work 'The Essence of Jim Davidson'. How exactly can you prove innocence?

Anonymous said...

Hey A!

I'd like to say that there is an easy answer to your question, and that it is simply the click of a key on your MAC, but in truth, although the internet has made it easier for us to find relevant research articles in a specific field, there will always be obscure journals and publications which we won't ever read or hear about that may say something (ir)relevant about that topic. If it's really important, you'll come across it somehow. Because what I'm interested in is humour, it is virtually impossible to read (or understand) everything which is being -and has been written- on the topic, in philosophy, literature, linguistics, psychology etc.

I used to have this kind of anxiety every time I walked into a bookshop, thinking I would never be able to read all there was to read that I SHOULD be reading. I still have not read Don Quixote, and it's been on my list of 'to-read' books for many years.

Now, I'm glad that I won't have read everything by the time I retire (whenever that will be!) so I have years of reading ahead of me. And, I'm looking forward to re-reading stuff I'll have forgotten about when my memory fails me!

Chillax Aidan, you have too many books as it is!

PS: Hope you get to read this, I am on my fourth attempt to prove I'm not a robot. I am now having doubts myself.

Ewarwoowar said...

Once again I have nothing to add and can't help here.

Just the comment above caught my eye.

a) The use of "A", which is what the anonymous Vole (lol) uses for his e-mail sign-off.

b) The knowledge that Vole has a Mac

c) The use of the name "Aidan" - whoever that is.

d) The knowledge that Vole has too many books.



The Plashing Vole said...

Thanks, you two (guessing one of you is Josiane). It certainly looms large in my university nightmares.

Martin Eve, a very wise man, has posted some really good ideas to cope with Citation Anxiety:


Anonymous said...