This article quotes famous mythologist Joseph Campbell as saying:

"Reading what you want, and having one book lead to the next, is the way I found my discipline. I’ve suggested this to many of my students: When you find a writer who really is saying something to you, read everything that writer has written and you will get more education and depth of understanding out of that than reading a scrap here and a scrap there and elsewhere. Then go to people who influenced that writer, or those who were related to him, and your world builds together in an organic way that is really marvelous."

Based on my limited experience with computer science and economics, my guess is that the answer is no, but I was wondering if this strategy might work in Biology or some other discipline?

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    isn't any true natural scientist a better source of advice than this humanities professor?!? While in humanities you have to read a lot of books, in natural sciences you better train yourself in developing and conducting experiments, books are mostly secondary literature in natural sciences to look up things. Innovative ideas and questions you rather find in papers... – user48953094 Apr 16 '19 at 20:14
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    Just focusing on one writer and the people who influenced him/her is a great way to develop biased thinking. – SinghTheCoder Apr 17 '19 at 0:42

While this might be a strategy, I think it would be a mistake if it were your only strategy. Normally a lot of people contribute to a discipline and each of them have slightly different insights and thoughts to bring to bear. Even though you want to delve deeply into the topic of interest, it is likely a mistake to get too closely involved with the thought processes of that one person, unless they are the subject of study itself.

Interesting idea, though. But I wouldn't use it extensively.

However, going back to the influences on a researcher can be fruitful, especially if it gives you insight in to their insight.

I think the fields that are overwhelmingly interested by one person are rare, though there are a few. Stephen Hawking comes to mind, of course.

  • "likely a mistake to get too closely involved with the thought processes of that one person" - Does this apply to "basic knowledge" as well? I have the impression that there is a certain "way" an economist thinks about things and there is a certain way a computer scientist thinks about things; would that strategy work for getting to know the basics of a field? With cutting-edge research it's unlikely to work, as research papers are AFAIK to technical to allow for much individual style ... – kratom_sandwich Apr 16 '19 at 20:06
  • No, it is different for a field, and even for a subfield. In that you want to try to understand everything closely related. But that will normally involve the work of several minds. You want to deeply understand a problem, for example, from different viewpoints. You want to know something about the trend of thought that got us to the current state of knowledge. So yes, delve deeply. It is required, but not just the thoughts of one person. – Buffy Apr 16 '19 at 20:08

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