Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Avoiding blind alleys in research

Two weeks ago Rich Hopkins had an excellent Speak & Deliver video blog post titled Speaking of the Perfectionist Bug. One week ago I saw another blog post from Kramm Court Reporting titled Atelophobia - The Fear of Not Being Perfect - Realtime Court Reporters.

I don’t recall seeing the word atelophobia before. Wikipedia has an entry for it that says it’s the obsessive fear of imperfection. Is that a useful term for describing perfectionism? Was I missing something significant? Nope, it’s just a blind alley.

I looked up atelophobia, perfectionism, and the combination of perfectionism AND phobia up on Google, in WorldCat (the planetary library catalog), and in Public Medline (PubMed, the National Library of Medicine’s index of about 22 million articles) and PubMed Central (PMC, the subset of PubMed with free full text of articles). Then I looked in some databases at my public library web site: Academic Search Premier, Business Source Premier, Master FILE Premier, and Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition.

The table ( click on it for a larger version) reveals that atelophobia doesn’t show up at all in the medicine and health databases - PubMed and Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. It also doesn’t show up at all in two of the main magazine databases, Business Source Premier and Master FILE Premier. Apparently it’s not a term that’s being used by serious professionals.

But, if you look around on Google you’ll find atelophobia on a silly list of Top 10 Most Common Phobias. Also, CTRN: Change That’s Right Now will be happy to treat you for it.

Using atelophobia as a search term just sends you down a blind alley. It leads to little that is useful, so it’s a waste of your precious time. If you had first checked on PubMed and Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition, you’d have decided to try another more useful combination of terms, like perfectionism AND phobia.

The image for a blind alley was derived from this poster.

1 comment:

Michael Platania said...

I find that people who use words like this are often trying to make themselves sound more important and smarter than they actually are, and not focused on the audience and their needs.