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I have some opinions on certain topics and I would like to let my opinions be confronted with the world (and possibly, get something in return, such that I do not starve). However, here is the problem: I do not exactly know how to do that and whether there even exists such possibility. For your interest, I am a PhD student with almost zero true academic experience (i.e., no published papers except conference papers).

To be clear, what I consider to be opinions are works of Hayek, Mises, etc... People who can say: "I think the substance of the following problem is this and that, based on these arguments" or "The problem is defined as such and stems from the following idea". Basically, research based mostly on literature review, argumentation, and conceptualization, but also research trying to come up with new definitions.

Few years ago, it seemed to me there were many opinions floating around, but now it appears as if opinionated papers or books have vacated the scene.

Therefore, the question is:

  • In current times, what are the attitudes in social sciences towards publishing opinions?
  • Are there fields in which opinions are regularly being published?
  • What are the odds of PhD student publishing opinion contrary to established researcher?
  • How to even publish opinions? What are the associated problems one must solve first?
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    "and possibly, get something in return, such that I do not starve" That is not going to happen. You don't get paid for papers published in journals. Nov 24, 2023 at 16:43
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    It looks like what you called opinions are what others call theories: an internally consistent set of statements that could be true. Theoretical work in the social sciences do get published, but that is not something you can do as hobby, you really need an advisor that does that kind of work. Nov 24, 2023 at 16:48
  • @MaartenBuis I do get paid. That is an internal policy at my university. Regarding the other point, if I wanted to do theory as a job (as I really like theoretical reasoning) but was without an advisor, is there a way to do it solo? Are theories retracting from social sciences mostly in favor of empirical work?
    – Athaeneus
    Nov 24, 2023 at 17:06
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    They are not going away, but if you think the economic discipline is harsh wait till you try to enter social theory. Without an advisor to ease you into that field you will be eaten alive, spit out, and than trampled, burned, and ground down to tiny little bits. No advisor means no chance. Nov 24, 2023 at 17:12
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    The reason is probably that there are many people doing bad social theory (just enter any pub and listen). Doing social theory right is hard. Nov 24, 2023 at 17:15

2 Answers 2

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You can self-publish opinions on a web site or otherwise, but publishers generally, outside the popular press are very unlikely to do so. Publishers want to advance "novel" contributions to a given field along with the evidence that supports them. And, they don't pay the authors. In fact, there is often a charge (page charge) that the author(s) must cover.

Opinions, however, can lead to hypotheses. Hypotheses can lead to research topics with some evidence gathering methodology. The evidence is gathered, evaluated, and summarized. Only then do you get a publication, assuming it passes review.

Opinions contrary to established "wisdom" are fruitful for discussions with academics, provided you have a way to contact them, as a doctoral student probably does. That can lead to hypotheses, etc.

But it is the evidence that makes for publish-ability.

One is "paid" for such things in reputation, not in money. One can "spend" that by using the reputation to obtain a job of some sort in academia or elsewhere.

The "opinions" of prominent people may be taken seriously and they might even write about them and find an outlet, but that is quite different from academic publishing and has little effect on the reputation in most cases. But it can lead to hypotheses, etc... And, you need to be prominent first for this effect. Not likely for a student. But worth discussions with other academics, even (especially) for students.


My daughter's doctoral thesis was at the crossroads of philosophy and education. Her hypotheses questioned the long standing accepted wisdom of a certain issue. Her evidence showed clearly that the "wisdom" was flawed. The hypothesis wasn't enough. And the evidence was "interesting", hence publishable.

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  • Reading Mises' Human Action, I have not come across the feeling that the book sold evidence per se (at least novel evidence). It was more like a connecting element between multiple separate evidences from other people. That is, probably, what I consider to be the distinction between the "opinion" and the "science" itself. Maybe I just haven't seen the evidence, but contrary to current papers, I really think years ago, one did not have to provide new evidence, guaranteed they had cool arguments. Can there be publish-ability without much novel evidence, nowadays?
    – Athaeneus
    Nov 24, 2023 at 18:02
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What you are talking about sounds like social theory. That is a field on its own, which is extremely hard (=impossible) to enter as an outsider. The problem they have, is that everybody thinks they can do social theory, and the results are typically awful. They developed methods, systems, etc to do good quality theory. You need to learn those first before you can enter. (The fact that you called theory opinion is already a huge red flag. That will get you immediately desk rejected.)

So if this is what you want, you should consider changing discipline. This field is also very factionalized, so you also need to choose very carefully which school of thought fits you. In short, if you really want this, then that is going to be a big commitment.

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  • What I do: I try to establish myself in the theory of preferences (which is something I prefer to think about). There is a discussion whether there is a significant meaning behind preferences (they are set apriori) or not (constructed posteriorly). A discussion, which has not been empirically solved as there are problems with papers in favor or in disfavor of each branch. I follow the apriori branch, while having an "opinion" about how this apriori process can be done, trying to be consistent with current research. Yet, I feel worried whether this type of research is even publishable.
    – Athaeneus
    Nov 24, 2023 at 19:53
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    You are right to be worried Nov 24, 2023 at 20:20

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