Monday, May 20, 2013

A most unusual paper

In 1974, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis published a most unusual manuscript.  The journal received the manuscript on 25 October 1973, and published it without revision.  The manuscript contained not a single word of text, except for the title, name of the author, his affiliation, the subtitle "References", and a brief acknowledgement.  

There were no equations, no figures, and no references.  Essentially, the manuscript was a blank page, authored by Dennis Upper of Veteran's Administration Hospital of Brockton, Massachusetts.  

When the manuscript was published, the journal also published a reviewer's comments.  Here is what the reviewer had to say: 

"I have studied this manuscript very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays and have not detected a single flaw in either design or writing style.  I suggest it be published without revision.  Clearly it is the most concise manuscript I have ever seen --- yet is contains sufficient detail to allow other investigators to replicate Dr. Upper's failure.  In comparison with the other manuscripts I get from you containing all that complicated detail, this one was a pleasure to examine.  Surely we can find a place for this paper in the Journal --- perhaps on the edge of a blank page."

The paper was titled: "The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of writer's block".  Since publication, it has been cited 29 times.

D Upper (1974) The unsuccessful self-treatment of a case of writer's block.  Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 7(3):497.