Jump to content

"Scooping" & "theory wars"


Recommended Posts

Hello, friends!


This is a question for MA and PhD students, professors, or anyone who's been up to their waist in anthropological & archaeological research longer than I have.


My (tentative) MA thesis topic is going to involve revisiting an old data set with a fresh set of theoretical eyes. The data comes from a site that's part of a well documented, thoroughly researched site with an established cultural chronology. I want to use that old raw data, or another preexisting data set, as an example of potential applications of a few main theories to bioarchaeology, with my greatest emphasis on a relatively new perspective that I feel goes perfectly hand-in-hand with it. I don't intend to discuss methodological or ethical problems within the sub-discipline; supporting the usefulness of the new theoretical perspective by way of the preexisting data set is my focus.


So, I've got two main questions:

How common is "scooping" in anthropology/archaeology? i.e., should I be worried about rushing to publish a new theoretical perspective as it relates an up-&-coming sub-discipline first? Does it matter? 

I intend to publish & continue refining my thesis after it's done, but I'm nervous about "theory wars" & how to respond to published critiques or criticisms. How do I find the "holes" in my arguments? How do I respond to criticisms, particularly with regard to the age of the data set & potential methodological flaws?


Thanks, y'all!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am no expert, but I do have some input.


1) S**t happens. So does scooping, and there is really little you can do about it. If you are close to finishing your paper, don't procrastinate, go and get it published, but also don't rush things and jeopardize the quality of your paper. There is alwas a possibility that someone got the same idea you did, and it sucks when they publish it before you, but you will most certainly have some different points or information and it is better to be a bit late than to publish a peper which is not the best quality. 


I defended my masters thesis last December, it was submitted for publication shortly after, but will be published only in a month or so. A few months ago, a team from Max Planck Institute published a paper whit the very same topic and a very similar approach. My feelings at that time were very much on the are-you-f-kidding-me  :o side of the emotion meter, but my paper did cover some points theirs didn't so it is not that bad. (I was also a bit proud of my selfbecause the whole team of senior scientists basically did the same thing I did, but that is just the kid in me screaming "See, I can do science!". The scientist in me was disappointed :))


2) No one likes to hear critique or criticism, but try to take it as a good thing- that is how science evolves and how you and your work get better. If you have the opportunity, address those critiques. From what I understand, you are using a new approach and testing it on old data which is fine, and should not raise much criticism but if someone does call you out, you can always explain briefly why you used the old data set and that you plan on will applying the methodology to new data in the future. Explain further if you were too brief, defend if something is misunderstood.


If a critic does have a valid point, well good, That is how you notice gaps and make it better next time. Most of the time, criticism in science is a good thing, even if it hurts our egos. You can never cover all the points and all the anglesespecially if there is some interdisciplinarity involved, which is often the case in anthro.


Looking at papers from the same authors chronologically, you can really see how they change and adjust their methodology, views and claims...and I am talking about well established renowned anthropologists who have been in this game for decades. 


As for theory wars, don't lose much sleep on them. 


As for finding holes, well you can go through your arguments and sort of challenge yourself, imagine  all the other possibilities, possible criticism and then try to incorporate your answers in your papers.


My thesis was heavily interdisciplinary so I shared it with some of my close colleagues who were farmiliar with the subject to examine it, and give their contra-arguments, as well as some friends from related disciplines.

I am not, however, comfortable suggesting this because I do not know your colleagues and cohort.


it did help me a lot, but we were all focusing on different things in my masters cohort, there was little competition between us and we were and still are very close friends personally, so there was no fear of someone copying my work or something like that.


Goog luck with your paper!  :)

Edited by Washoe
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use