I’m currently procrastinating on writing a conference paper for a panel I’m sitting on this Friday. And by procrastinating, I mean that I haven’t actually started synthesizing my research into a paper. Yikes. However, this isn’t a post about procrastination. I’ve already talked about procrastination in the past. However, this does bring me to the point of this post: the fact that there’s nothing new left to say.
Admit it. Sometimes, doing research about a particular subject area, it suddenly becomes clear that you can’t possible have anything new to add to the discussion. Smarter and more qualified people than you have already said everything there is to be said. Why not just give up?
While it may be true that a lot has been said on any subject, that shouldn’t keep you from engaging in the subject. Sure, a lot has been written and published on your area of interest. So what? Not every piece of writing has to be an earth-shattering new theory or interpretation. Sometimes, all a paper can hope to do is increase the barriers of knowledge a tiny bit more. Some academic papers simply do a good job of bringing together the existing scholarship to strengthen existing arguments about whatever the subject is. Some experiments simply prove that what another scientist claimed was true. Academia doesn’t always have to be about proving somebody else wrong, it can sometimes be about supporting what has already been said.
Maybe if we change the way we think about the purpose of research and writing we can change people’s attitudes about writing and researching. Sure, ground breaking discoveries are always exciting and interesting, but those discoveries can’t be made or supported without a foundation. That’s why academics are so big on citations–we want to create a community of learning that recognizes individual contributions. So what are we waiting for? Let’s dive into the fray of academic writing without fear of not being original or new or paradigm shifting. Let’s just contribute in the ways we can contribute, and maybe that big discovery will one day come.