Daniel Lemire's blog

, 1 min read

How many deleted sections do you write?

Research ideas come through writing. Thinking deep thoughts while you stare at the wall is not productive. So, researchers write a lot. Some of it is incorrect or uninteresting.

Just like movie studios are filled with deleted scenes, my drawers are full of deleted sections. I write about 5 research papers a year; I must throw away several hundred pages of content each year. Deleted scenes make it to the DVD version. My deleted sections sometimes appear in technical reports. Most often, I never publish them. They fall in the following categories:

  • Lengthy theoretical analysis of a tangential idea. Or a good idea in the wrong paper.
  • Description of unconclusive analysis or experiment.

I am often reluctant to throw away uninteresting content. But I worked so hard on this section!

Throwing away content is easy if you write conference papers. The page limitations and tight deadlines force your hand. However, it becomes harder with journal articles where there are often no page limitation, and reviewers expect a thorough and exhaustive analysis.

The main problem, I believe, is in the medium itself. That is, our collective reluctance to definitively move away from paper. Just like DVDs make it possible to include deleted scenes, research papers appearing online should have links to deleted sections and extra material. Some of the sections I delete should still be available.

Yes, I can write an appendix, but they are peer reviewed. I want to include extra stuff for the curious readers.