The Value of Classic Literature in Shaping the Future
There are many factors that shape the future, but one that is always present, often overlooked and undervalued, is the literature that has shaped the present and that exerts a lasting effect in shaping the future. The admonition that most students learn early in their academic careers is to read and cite the most recent literature in their field of interest—an admirable practice, but one that leaves a large, gaping hole in any scholarly effort when the evolution and history of a current idea are not also explored. In fact, there is evidence, reported in a recent computer science article (see http://arxiv.org/abs/1411.0275), that there is a notable increase in citations of older literature.
Technologic factors that have prompted this renewed interest in older literature include the shift to digital online publication, mass digitization of journal archives, full-text indexing, and improved search engines based on relevance ranking. But accessibility alone does not explain the possibility that older literature is gaining increased attention by current scholars. Once an older article on a particular topic is discovered, it is still subject to same critical assessment that a scholar makes of a current article, which includes placing the content of any article in the context of the time and place in which it was produced. If an article, regardless of date, has particular importance and relevance to the present and the future, it can and should be acknowledged.
This journal, Advances in Nursing Science (ANS), has a strong reputation for articles that prove to be “classics” over time. In fact, the metrics that indicate the strength and value of a journal are the strongest for ANS in those measures that reflect the lasting influence of early articles. The entire archive of ANS was digitized in 2004, making the entire ANS library available online to all subscribers and electronically to all academic libraries as well. But mere availability does not create a “classic”; classic literature can only be revealed as demonstrated by its lasting influence over time.
In this issue of ANS, we feature an interview with Barbara Carper, the author of one of the most notable classic articles in ANS, titled “Fundamental Patterns of Knowing in Nursing.”1 Carper's insights unleashed a critical moment in the history of the development of nursing by demonstrating that nursing practice is based on wholistic knowing that includes not only empirics but also privileges personal, ethical, and aesthetic knowing. Other authors have used Carper's work to substantiate their own scholarship. Others have provided constructive critiques and analyses that have extended the possibilities for future development of nursing knowledge, theory, research, and practice based on the foundation that Carper's work provided. For many, the revelation of the wholistic nature of knowing in nursing has affirmed and encouraged nursing's historic commitment to the wholistic nature of human experience. Therefore, it is a great honor to publish Elizabeth Eisenhauer's interview with Dr Carper and to honor Dr Carper as a significant contributor to the development of the discipline of nursing.
The fact that Carper's words are conveyed here in the form of an interactive interview is also significant, because interaction and discussion are vital processes that shape what ultimately appears in the published literature. Discussion that is informed by the long view of history builds a common disciplinary understanding of the issues, appreciation of opposing ideas, and ultimately consensus on shared ideas and mutual understanding where ideas are not in agreement. As an ANS reader, you can join the ongoing discourse around the ideas that appear here and in other nursing literature. Visit the ANS blog at http://ansjournalblog.com for messages from the authors of articles that appear in the journal and join in the discussion!
—Peggy L. Chinn, PhD, RN, FAAN
1. Carper BA. Fundamental patterns of knowing in nursing. ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 1978;1(1):13–23.