Thursday, November 16, 2006
Refining original research
If one wants to play the part of a fool, as Thersites did in the second book of The Iliad, then others should be allowed to respond as Homer reports Odysseus had.
What has been overlooked in this expansion of the rule against Original Research is that many kooks and cranks want to publish their "new and important findings" in order to stop further debate. They are not attempting to present one more opinion, one more point of view -- which under the guidelines of Neutral point of View is permitted -- but to exclude all other points of view and replace them with only one -- their own. I doubt anyone would believe this is healthy.
I find the following, taken from the American Library Association's ideal professional standards for publishing original research, useful:
- Academic careers exist to make distincitons and to open up spaces of difference in order to produce new knowledge through experiment, speculation, and interpretaton or through study and
commentary on or revision of work done in the past.
- Scholarship is highly cumulative and iterative: it tends to resist closure. Academic books thus participate in and stir critique and controversy even as they pretend to settle the matter once and for all.
- Although the range of subjects and variety of tones used in academic writing has expanded
considerably of late, academic books tend to be critical rather than promotional and provide
alternative views and counter arguments. They test and probe even as they assert and celebrate.
I doubt that Wikipedia will reach the point where we can enforce these standard; it's hard enough making sure contributions follow the rules of grammatical english. Yet I believe this is something to keep in mind in our ongoing quest to improve the quality of Wikipedia.