The Independent Scholar’s Handbook by Ronald Gross

To many, the word “scholarship” conjures up a dry, isolated, and bookish process and result. Serious people writing serious things, published in serious academic journals and books. And to be sure, scholarship of the nature practiced and produced by academicians can fit that description.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. For a livelier view of scholarship, see Ronald Gross, The Independent Scholar’s Handbook (1982 or 1993 edition). Ron is a leading adult educator who helped to popularize the term “lifelong learning” during the 1970s. He wrote the book for those who are pursuing scholarly work outside of traditional academic settings, but it should be required for those of us residing within academe as well.

The book intersperses stories of successful independent scholars with lots of “how to” advice. Urban activist Jane Jacobs, historian Barbara Tuchman, and futurist Alvin Toffler are among the well-known and not-so-well-known independent scholars profiled in it.  If this book cannot inspire or restore a sense of joie de vivre towards scholarship, then nothing will.

A personal favorite

Obviously the book is out of date. Even the second edition preceded the arrival of the Internet as a medium for research and communication.  But that shouldn’t matter. What counts here is the way in which Gross deftly shares inspirational accounts of independent scholars who have made a difference with their work and informative advice on engaging and presenting scholarly work in creative ways.

Although I have been an academic for nearly 20 years, The Independent Scholar’s Handbook remains my favorite work on the philosophy and application of scholarship. (It is through a chapter in the Handbook that I was first introduced to the work of John Ohliger, Chris Wagner, and Basic Choices.) The sense of excitement it conveys over both the research and presentation stages of scholarly work remains as fresh today as when I first read the book in 1982.

Now, it’s free!

Although the book is out of print, Ron has arranged with the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars to offer a full version online, free of charge, here. It’s worth downloading in its entirety.

-David Yamada

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