Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 34:
“No one’s going to read my writing anyway; why bother?”
It’s true that your articles might not be read.
According to one study, three quarters of articles in the humanities are never cited and the majority of those cited receive five citations or less (Larivière, Gingras, and Archambault 2009). In the social sciences, a third of articles go uncited (Sciencewatch 2010).
However, these statistics don’t reveal the full story.
In the humanities, citation rates are dramatically underreported because citations in print publications and books are not well-tracked. Well-read articles may appear to have no citations. For instance, an article I published on Sherman Alexie has only four citations, but people download it several times a week. It turns out that many high school teachers and students read that article; yet it barely shows up in scholarly citations because those readers don’t publish peer-reviewed journal articles with citations.
So, here’s the truth. No one knows whether the article they write will be cited or read—it’s unpredictable. So, you can’t say that your article won’t be read. It’s quite possible it will be. You need to write to find out.
Larivière, Vincent, Yves Gingras, and Éric Archambault. 2009. “The decline in the concentration of citations, 1900–2007.” Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology 60 (4):858-862.
Sciencewatch. 2010. “Citation Thresholds.” Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Reuters. Accessed on. https://web.archive.org/web/20100505011410/http://sciencewatch.com/about/met/thresholds/#highly_cited.
Solution to Writing Obstacle No. 34, one of the confidence obstacles listed on page 32 of Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (University of Chicago Press, 2019).