Writing as Discovery: Investigating a Hidden Component of Scholarly Method

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Numerous artists have commented that they are only partially aware of what shape their work will take, prior to creating it. This paper asks whether scholars and scientists are all that different in this regard. Is writing an academic paper or book really just a matter of “writing up” a set of pre-established results? Reporting on a pilot study towards a large-scale, interview-based exploration of the investigative dimensions of scholarly and scientific composition, the paper analyses its author’s interviews with three leading academic authors: literary scholars Derek Attridge and Hannah Sullivan, and linguist Michael Hoey. All three confirm that the act of writing articles and monographs serves to generate ideas they had not realized they were working on, whether through the internal pressure of their concepts as they unfold, the happy finds of revision, or the influence of external agen- cies in the inherently social process of publication. A coda points to related findings in the sciences, suggesting that, far from ancillary, the act of writing papers constitutes a key plank of method in those disciplines as well.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-319
Number of pages23
JournalInterdisciplinary Literary Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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