Friday, September 08, 2006
When your Writing is SSR-empted
In a previous post, I wondered what the right term was for when you are in the middle of working on an article, and then you suddenly see something strikingly similar posted on SSRN.
This happened to me a couple of years ago when I was working on a contract theory piece (half of which is still kicking around in draft somewhere on my hard drive). Since then, it’s also happened to at least two other academic friends, and the immediate effect can be quite demoralizing. Yet, to some degree, it’s quite understandable, especially if you’re working on a hot topic or something that’s been in the news extensively. Sooo…. after you’ve finished eating all of the chocolate ice cream in the freezer, there are some practical ways to address the problem of the scholarly interloper:
1) Scrap the parts that are common, and then develop one portion – perhaps that received cursory treatment in the interloping piece – into the focus of your article.
2) Was your piece advancing a particular point of view on a theory or a point of law reform? If so, you may not agree with the policy view that the interloper is advancing. Perhaps you can set the interloping piece up as your “straw man” to argue against.
3) Place your piece into cyberspace. (Not literally. The interloper has already done that). Rather, is there a way to give the topic a modern spin above and beyond what the interloper has done?
4) Alternatively, add a different theoretical approach. The interloper did a law and humanities analysis. Maybe you could could give it a critical one.
Of course, much of this discussion hinges on how much overlap there is between the two drafts. If it turns out that the other piece has only a surface similarity to your draft, there may really not be much of a problem at all. Throw in some citations and a discussion of the article in the introduction, and you’ll be all set.
On the other hand, do a cost-benefit analysis. If it turns out that the pieces are discussing the same sources, cases, and the overlap is simply overwhelming, it may make more sense to bring your research to an SSR-end and move on to the next topic. There’s certainly no shortage of interesting legal topics to write about.
[Hat-tip for the sniglet: Adam Kolber]
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