The Neverending Research Project

I’ve wanted a job where I can do research since I was in college.  I may be strange, but I’ve always enjoyed research and have always had an aptitude for it.  I went to law school thinking that being a lawyer would be fundamentally about research, and when I found out there were other elements (like, you know, everything else) I was questioned whether I made the right decision to attend law school.  Then I found out about law librarianship and realized this is what I had been looking for.  A job where I could help people, wouldn’t have to necessarily focus on one area of the law, and be able to research and write articles.  It was wonderful and I was excited to begin my career where I could research to my heart’s content.  As the saying goes (at least a saying from The West Wing): when the Gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.

I am not saying I do not like researching, or that I have become sullen with my career; far from it.  Teaching, thought at times frustrating is incredibly rewarding; helping students and other patrons is very satisfying; working on interesting and challenging projects exercises my mind in ways I didn’t anticipate; and working with other librarians has been very fun and rewarding.  But hanging over everything is the need to publish and the requisite need to research.  No matter how much I do or get done in other parts of my job, it’s always there, waiting to be done.  Sometimes I just need to time to walk away and come back, and the project seems like it finishes itself.  Other times I need to be pushed (by the by, co-authors are the BEST!).  But then there are times, when the project just lingers, long past the point it should have been finished.

I am currently facing such a project, one I’ve been working on to one degree or another for almost 3 years.  I am currently in that terrible place of limbo where I have done too much research and work to give up, but where I also just want it to be over.   It is certainly a worthwhile project and one I am proud of, but I have read and reread, and worked and reworked it so many times, I’m starting to worry that I’m just spinning my wheels, while simultaneously being certain that the project is just not done.  I now know what General Zod felt when he was stuck in the phantom zone.  This is the place this project has pushed me to: empathizing with General Zod!

So I’m writing to any and all readers of this blog for three reasons.  First, to let you know that if you are also in this place, that you are not alone.  Second, as a plea to those who have found yourself in this place to take pity on my and send some advice my way.  And third, to let you know about this project so that I can now have some accountability to you as readers: I vow to you here and now, that I will get this project done by June 2020.  I’ve read any number of “self-help” advisories that publicizing you plan to do something is the best way to get it done, since you don’t want to disappoint or come up short in front of the people you have told.  So I am using you dear reader, as a lifeline to get myself out of this phantom zone and free and clear of this project.  Feel free to follow up with me at any time, offer up some advice or other encouragement, and to ridicule me mercilessly if I don’t follow through.   At this point, I’m even willing to offer a co-authorship to anyone who is able to pry me loose… not really, but I have considered it.

About Matt Timko

Matt Timko is the Academic Technologies and Outreach Services Librarian at Northern Illinois University’s David C. Shapiro Memorial Law Library. He is also an assistant professor, teaching Basic Legal Research to the first year students. In addition to Matt’s teaching, technology, and outreach roles, he is also a reference librarian, assisting students, faculty, and the public.
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1 Response to The Neverending Research Project

  1. Beth Conte says:

    You summed up my career story perfectly – except that I have worked in private law firm rather than academia. Thank you!

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