To read or not to read…

I have discovered that I sometimes suffer from paralysis by analysis on the blog. I write the best stuff when I concoct a post in my head during a dog walk and then immediately pour it into the computer while it is still hot. Whenever I set out to do some real lit research on the topic I realize that other, smarter people have already written all that, and did a better job than I could ever dream of doing, so I abandon the post.
So, I am getting really nervous now, as I am thinking of writing a post about the history of the scientific paper and how the Web and the Open Access will change it in the future. Then, I see that several smart people wrote about the topic already. To read them all or not? I am curious and I want to know, but I am afraid I’ll never write my post if I read these papers now. Advice?

12 responses to “To read or not to read…

  1. As Commodore Perry said:
    “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!”
    Add your voice to the choir to fill the chord.

  2. I agree. It’s hardly the case that the future of publishing is already decided. Everyone that writes, everyone that contributes, helps to create that future.
    At the same time, the pace of actual change is quite slow compared to the pace that the speculation and experimentation are happening. The big commercial publishers will do anything to stop any progress (and some societies too). Every voice added to the chorus, every new idea, will help make some kind of better future happen.

  3. My feeling is, write first. Then, if you really want to know, read what other people wrote…and use their work to improve your idea (if need be).

  4. I sympathize, I have the same problem. The more I know the more I realize I don’t know, goes the old saying, and researching just seems to lead to more researching until it’s overwhelming and intimidating.
    You asked for advice, so I’ll suggest writing without reading what others have written (then edited, polished and published, bound to make a first draft blog post feel insecure).
    Now to take my own advice…

  5. Well, I’ll echo what the others have said and recommend that you write away right away; when you’re done with your first draft then you can read through the other essays. But I have to add, I almost dozed off reading through some of the excerpts in John Dupuis’ post — whatever you end up writing is going to be much more interesting, I’m sure.
    By the way, if you haven’t seen them yet be sure to check out Michael Nielsen’s posts about micropublication and the future of science, here, here and here.

  6. afarensis, FC D

    I would write and publish, then read what others say. I sympathize though, I have deleted posts for just that reason on a number of occasions…

  7. Read away! The worst that can happen is that you gain some more information and insight, which you can then distill and combine with your current ideas. Oh, wait, that’s the best thing that can happen.

  8. Write first, ask questions later. (The blogger’s motto!)

  9. I definitely can empathize with the problem, Bora. After writing my big human evolution review I was planning on trying to write up a review paper, but yesterday I received Bowler’s Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate, 1844-1944 (1980) and discovered that the topic had already largely been covered in the book. Granted, Buffon and other important scientists aren’t mentioned, nor is the overall public understanding of human evolution mentioned, but it still took the wind out of my sails a little bit. Still, I think you should go ahead and write up your post as you can probably tie in other information/perspectives not covered in the other articles (plus you’re a great writer!). I’ll be looking forward to seeing your take on the history of the scientific paper.

  10. Write your first draft. Then read the others’ reviews, lest you poison your own writing style and opinions with the ramblings of lesser men.
    Ermm. Sorry.
    I really wish we could write like that sometimes though. But seriously, don’t ruin your own writing style.

  11. Leon Kreitzman

    Read them and use their thoughts. Plagiarism ( in conceptual terms – not literally)is a sign of maturity.

  12. Whether you write or not make sure you read that issue of CTWatch Quarterly it is quite interesting.