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Re: [XTalk] OT "How they do it"

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... Jeffrey, I d ask em who was their role model for writing and publishing? I suspect that the influence of one s grad school teachers is extremely
    Message 1 of 6 , Dec 10, 2008
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      At 09:14 AM 12/10/2008, Jeffrey B. Gibson wrote:
      >I'm thinking of surveying scholars whose production of articles and
      >books is enviable and whose research and knowledge of the filed is
      >prodigious, to find out how they "do it".
      >
      >What sort of questions about reading and writing habits etc. etc. do
      >list members think I should ask?
      >
      >What sort of habits are yours?
      >
      >Jeffrey

      Jeffrey,
      I'd ask'em who was their role model for writing and publishing? I suspect
      that the influence of one's grad school teachers is extremely influential.
      * Ask about how obsessive (or not) their grad faculty was in getting
      every last detail right
      * Ask how their mentors decided when something was "ready" to publish
      * When they heard a voice saying "Its ready," whose voice was it?
      (voice may be internal or external)
      * Find out whether they set aside large blocks of time for writing, so
      that they were able to gain some momentum, or whether they were able to
      "write on the run."
      * Find out if they focused on one writing project at a time, or if they
      had a bunch of projects going all the time.
      * Find out if they decided in advance on the scope of a particular
      writing project: what the objective was, how well-defined the project was
      at the beginning, or whether they just went with the flow as the subject
      and their interest developed
      * Find out if they rushed to publish the juicy stuff first, and then
      let the details languish, or whether they'd lay out the details first, and
      then spice it up with some juicy stuff for flavoring.
      I've struggled with these questions for my whole career. If you took all
      the stuff I've ever written on XTalk, there'd be enough material for
      several books. (I didn't say it was GOOD material!) But did I ever write
      one? Not since 1996, when I first joined.

      Maybe when I retire...

      Bob Schacht
      University of Hawaii


      >--
      >Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
      >1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
      >Chicago, Illinois
      >e-mail jgibson000@...
      >
      >
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    • Horace Jeffery Hodges
      Jeffrey, I don t know about those who are so productive as you note, but I see that I ve gotten more productive as I grow older because I am better at
      Message 2 of 6 , Dec 11, 2008
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        Jeffrey, I don't know about those who are so productive as you note, but I see that I've gotten more productive as I grow older because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I do research.
         
        Some of the scholars whom you would be interested in interviewing would perhaps have advice on how to filter out the unnecessary from the necessary as they pursue their research.
         
        Again, in my case, I usually already know the answer before I undertake the research, so I know what's not profitable to follow up. Of course, if I come across a powerful anomaly, I revise and head off on the changed course.
         
        Some scholars are just a whole lot better at this than I am -- and perhaps Bruce offered some of the reasons.
         
        Jeffery Hodges


        --- On Wed, 12/10/08, Jeffrey B. Gibson <jgibson000@...> wrote:

        From: Jeffrey B. Gibson <jgibson000@...>
        Subject: [XTalk] OT "How they do it"
        To: "Crosstalk2" <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
        Date: Wednesday, December 10, 2008, 1:14 PM

        I'm thinking of surveying scholars whose production of articles and
        books is enviable and whose research and knowledge of the filed is
        prodigious, to find out how they "do it".

        What sort of questions about reading and writing habits etc. etc. do
        list members think I should ask?

        What sort of habits are yours?

        Jeffrey

        --
        Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
        1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
        Chicago, Illinois
        e-mail jgibson000@...


        ------------------------------------

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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Crosstalk Cc: WSW In Response To: Jeffery Hodges On: How To Do It From: Bruce JEFFERY: . . . I see that I ve gotten more productive as I grow older because
        Message 3 of 6 , Dec 11, 2008
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          To: Crosstalk
          Cc: WSW
          In Response To: Jeffery Hodges
          On: How To Do It
          From: Bruce

          JEFFERY: . . . I see that I've gotten more productive as I grow older
          because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I
          do research.

          BRUCE: Somewhere in here, I think, may be the root of the whole business.
          Some people have a knack for seeing the right place to begin work on a
          problem, or on sensing when a much worked-on problem is ready to "go;" they
          are adept at snaking the kinglog out of the jam. Oppenheimer had a positive
          genius for this sort of thing; in my field, Sinology, George Kennedy of Yale
          was conspicuous for it. As far as my experience or my reading go, that is a
          gift which few have; it can to some extent be developed. The other key is
          good old Germanic thoroughness; seeing the work through to the end, without
          getting distracted by the byways, and then getting it out the door in 14
          pages or less. This skill is a little more common than the first; it too
          (including the much-neglected concision aspect) is developable up to a
          point, and worth cultivating up to that point.

          The rub is that very few people have both skills; they might even be said to
          imply opposite temperaments. That is why a good research team (a concept
          almost unknown in the humanities, but fertile where it *is* known) usually
          includes a good finder as well as a good completer. Or a good finder and
          fourteen good completers. Consider Edison, or Rutherford, or Pauling. That
          is how people do it, who care about doing it consistently.

          Jeffrey G's survey reminds me a little of the one undertaken a while back
          among mathematicians, to discover the roots of mathematical creativity.
          Hadamard has a little book on the results (The Psychology of Invention in
          the Mathematical Field); worth reading for anyone who cares about these
          things. See also Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (also much
          reprinted). This literature is not much known among humanists. And sure
          enough, the research productivity of humanists (as against their logorrhea,
          which is after all not quite the same thing) is notably low. Which may be
          why, in the current worldwide budget narrows, physical science vacancies are
          being replaced, at our so-called "research universities," while humanities
          vacancies, by and large, are not. Administrations are suddenly getting
          serious about research. Who would have thought it?

          Too late to change the condition of the much-bewailed but little-regarded
          humanities; the crunch is now and the tab is being paid now. But wouldn't it
          have been auspicious if someone had raised these questions about a
          generation ago?

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst
        • Horace Jeffery Hodges
          JEFFERY: . . . I see that I ve gotten more productive as I grow older because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I do research.
          Message 4 of 6 , Dec 11, 2008
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            JEFFERY: . . . I see that I've gotten more productive as I grow older
            because I am better at filtering out the unnecessary from the necessary as I
            do research.

            BRUCE: Somewhere in here, I think, may be the root of the whole business.
            Some people have a knack for seeing the right place to begin work on a
            problem, or on sensing when a much worked-on problem is ready to "go;" they
            are adept at snaking the kinglog out of the jam.
             
            Addendum from Jeffery Hodges: I think that a couple of things help with that knack: (1) breadth of vision that comes from wide-ranging curiosity and (2) concentration upon narrowly focused questions that can broaden out into broad-ranging solutions.
             
            Like Prufrock, we should avoid the overwhelming question.
             
            Jeffery Hodges

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