Parroting

Earlier this year, we had a highly knowledgeable, experienced and opinionated lecturer for an intensive ten day unit. Let’s call him Johnson. In those ten days, we had to read the texts Johnson nominated and write essays in response. He wrote many of the nominated texts, which were littered with references to his previous work, as well as other writers who agreed with him. It is a long-running joke amongst my classmates to quote our lecturer, saying, ‘Johnson citing Johnson citing Johnson…’

As you might imagine, we got a one-sided view of the topics he covered. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it was an extremely worthwhile unit. I have never been so challenged, traumatised and elated by one unit. I’m just amused at the idea of him receiving 106 essays to mark, every one of them parroting his own words back at him.

Well, classmates, in my dissertation research, I have found another author who references himself even more than Johnson does. Meet Leonard Brookes, economist (I think), former head of Forecasting and Energy Policy at the the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority and various other energy-related institutes and research councils. I came across him as an author of a journal paper, in which he cited eleven of his own works and various papers by other authors that cite his work.

Most interesting is the fact that he authored the Open University‘s energy unit. I have found a 1998 paper by a research fellow from Open University. The fellow must have been entirely convinced by Brookes; it is striking how closely his conclusions mirror Brookes’s.

I can’t tease him too much; I’ve done the same myself.

However, I hope to avoid it in future. Academic worship is neither attractive nor convincing. Constant self-reference is also… well, something you can only get away with when you’re a venerable academic-type.

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