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April 4, 1966


JAMA. 1966;196(1):96. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03100140150046

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"Literature" has several meanings. We speak of keeping up with the literature or, more likely, we lament our inability to do so. In this instance the term means "the sum of technical writing about any branch of knowledge." Thus, pediatric literature refers to all writings about pediatrics, psychiatric literature is all about psychiatry, and so on. In this context there need be little debate about which writings to include and which to exclude. Although some items of peripheral relevance might be included by some students but eliminated by others, the decision depends on pertinence, not felicity of style.

The substance of "scientific literature" does not change with time or fashion. Thus Hales's reports about blood pressure in the horse will always be part of cardiovascular literature, regardless of how quaint Hales's language seems now or may appear to future generations. Conversely, although Bishop Berkeley wrote elegant prose extolling the virtues

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