How Much Research is Enough?

I always do this: “Oh, I’ll never have enough to say to make it to the page limit. I need to do more research!” So I gather more and more. And then I write well past the page limit with even more to say. In the end, it feels like I trained for a marathon and ended up running a 5K.

How many years of graduate school does it take to understand the “right” amount of research one needs to make an argument?

I’m reminded of an anecdote from a historian–and, sorry, I won’t find the citation right now because I’m in the middle of writing a literature review on web indexing–which basically goes like this:

Interlocutor: Hey, famous historian, how do you know when you’ve done enough research?

Famous Historian: Well, I read and read until I feel like I know what to say.

Which is to say that there isn’t a “right” amount of research to do to answer a question. Read until you know what to say.

I’m going to go and finish saying it now, page limits be damned. That’s what editing is for.