Last night my friend alerted me to what is probably my favourite scientific paper of all time. The beauty of this paper is in it’s sheer simplicity. It is by far the most succinct academic paper I have read, and the reviewers comments say it all.
A brief moment of humour in a very serious scientific world.
Then I noticed the NCBI listing for the paper. This paper has been cited. TWICE!
Intrigued, I followed the link to a second paper. And a third. Before I knew it I was trawling through 30 Google scholar citations for Upper’s seminal 1974 paper. And what I found, was quite remarkable. Across 33 years, the joke perpetuates. Most are published in a single journal (Perceptual and Motor Skills), with an impact factor of 0.49. In total, I found no less than SIX follow-up studies to Upper’s original paper, attempting to replicate his findings and reviewing the literature.
One particularly pleasing follow-up article reports only a partial replication of Upper’s results:
The most recent article I found was published in 2007 in the same journal as the original paper.
This may be the longest-running academic joke in the literature. Some may say it’s gone on too long, been taken too far. I haven’t even finished writing this blog and frankly, I’m bored of it.
I believe this string of articles may have in fact given me writers blo
Want to Know More?
- Upper (1974) The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Sase of “Writer’s Block”. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 7(3): 497 Molloy (1983)
- The Unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: A replication. Perceptual and Motor Skills 57: 566 Hermann (1984)
- The Unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: A partial failure to replicate. Perceptual and Motor Skills 58: 350 Olson (1984)
- The Unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: A review of the literature. Perceptual and Motor Skills 59: 158 Skinner, Perlini, Fric, Werstine and Calla (1985)
- The Unsuccessful group-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”. Perceptual and Motor Skills 61: 298 Skinner, Perlini (1996)
- The Unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of “writer’s block”: A ten-year follow-up. Perceptual and Motor Skills 82: 138 Didden, Sigafoos, O’Reilly, Lancioni, Sturmey (2007)
- A multisite cross-cultural replication of Upper’s (1974) Unsuccessful self-treatment of writer’s block. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 40(4): 773