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

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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 1 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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    • 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 2 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 3 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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