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“Trendiness” in Research: A Turn-Off or a Turn-On?

- July 17, 2008


This is from the Musicology blog, which explains:

bq. “Trendy” is the word you use to dismiss an idea that (a) isn’t your thing, but (b) is the thing of enough people that you can’t just dismiss it as a fringe enthusiasm unworthy of the discipline’s support. Sometimes I think that academics have a kind of mental operating procedure designed to insulate them from having to consider anyone else’s ideas at all.

Hmm. I take the general point about insulation from other people’s ideas, and yet I wonder about whether the specific point about trendiness really holds. Doesn’t the very opposite of that point sound familiar? That is, research that wouldn’t otherwise get done, or if done wouldn’t get noticed, gets done and noticed precisely because it’s so trendy. A lot of Freakonomics-type stuff and much of social psychology, not to mention a great deal of political science and sociology, strikes me that way, and my own experience is that my “trendy” research has tended to make much more of an impression in political science and elsewhere than my more “academic” work. I wonder what others think about the pluses and minuses of doing “trendy” research (which I grant is a pretty ambiguous term).

[Hat tip to The Language Log]

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