In a recent e-mail I received from N.E. Brigand (of The One Ring.net's discussion boards), he responded to a question I asked him by directing me to squire's account of how a non-academic navigated the shoals of academic research.
I found the account really fascinating. In addition to reminding me of my own difficulties and insecurities when doing my first research as a graduate student (my friends are probably wearied of the tale of how Arthur Marotti justifiably disemboweled my first Shakespeare paper because of my misuse of the term "Petrarchan"), it also reminded me of how opaque academic culture can look from the outside. It's worth the read.
UPDATE: squire appears to be serializing his TORn post on his blog, starting here.