You can almost feel it. The pain of reading yet another piece of academic literature. Skimming abstracts did not turn out to provide valuable insights, so you decided to read some papers to get valuable insights for your dissertation. While you manage to read normal books with an average of 50 pages per hour, you hardly seem to get through 5 pages of a paper in the same time. Although you gain considerable insight, it also took considerable pain to find these insights.
But the power is in the pen, and you decide to write another publication to have your own say. Luckily, there are the five laws of writing incredibly dull scientific literature. In this way, your paper would not deviate too much from the rest. Success is guaranteed. So what are these five laws?
1. Do not come to the point too early
This is a key point for delaying understanding and improving the dullness of your masterpiece of academic literature. There is no way someone is going to read your paper and all the marvelous insights that you have gained through the research if you directly give away all your treasures. Moreover, it is better to hide your key findings between the sentences. And beware, before you know you create focus in your writing, something you want to avoid at all cost. Thus, make sure that everything important is included in your abstract. And in your literature review. And in your methodology. And in your conclusion and discussion.
Everything you state must be without implications or speculations. Because any speculation or implication concerning any fact makes it less scientific. And therefore less trustworthy. Even if it is an implication in your discussion.
And do not forget: if you are coming to the point, do not make your steps of reasoning too obvious. The reader has also to think for himself. The readers of your papers are highly-intelligent and multi-talented. They understand all the steps of your reasoning without mentioning and have the gift to see what is going on inside your brain.
2. Write long paragraphs with many technical terms and abbreviations
Academic writing is a form art. The art of writing long paragraphs (LP), complex sentences (CS), and creative abbreviations (CA). I would call it the artistry of academic textual matter (AATC).
Do not to forget including multi-syllable words (MSW) in your LPs. Each sentence should have at least a word with five syllables. Without these MSW, your AATC can not be taken seriously.
At last, in order to attain a high level of AATC not only a substantial amount of LPs are necessary, but also a high frequency of these LPs in combination with a large conglomeration of textual matter at least spanning 50 pages: the optimal amount may as well have a total which exceeds the formerly mentioned amount by a multiplication of three, a fact which is open for debate (I guess the point of this sentence is clear). The longer your paper, the more academic knowledge and insight you have. Findings of values can not be described in a text too short, it deserves a tree-length digression at least.
3. Avoid explanatory graphics at all costs
Sometimes, writers seem to forget that they are writing an academic paper. And academic paper is not a comic book. Was it not clear enough? An academic paper is not a comic book! Your visuals might support the communication of your idea, but be cautious. If you only stay to words, at least your readers do not understand you wrong.
But there is another highly important reason to avoid graphics. If there are explanatory, well-designed graphics, there is no need to write another hundred words. And that would be a pity. And what to say about all those readers who will only skim through your graphics, ignoring your beautifully crafted text? A picture says more than a thousand words, and that’s why we should leave them out.
4. Avoid any personality, originality or humor
Fertile ground produces crops. A blast furnace produces metal. A cow gives milk. A scholar produces papers. Or better stated: has to produce papers. Otherwise, there is no proof his intelligence is not diminishing. So let’s do our experiment again and write a new paper. Or let’s read some other incredible dull papers and summarize them. That might be good material for writing a new, highly exciting read.
But let’s say you did a super awesome experiment in a highly nuclear environment with interesting findings. That brings some excitement in, right? Hide it, especially it is a personal reflection. It sounds unprofessional and unscientific. Talking about your experiences is for the retarded.
Humor also reflects and uncovers personality. Thus, humor is dangerous. And people might remember sentences that have humor. It may tickle their mental states and unleash some happiness. Objectivity is essential, so those unobjective feelings should be avoided.
5. Quote as many papers as possible
A paper without references is like a cow without udders (I know, this saying is artificially constructed). It has a body, but little value. Therefore, include many references. Even if the reference only has one sentence that adds to your argumentation. It is also a particular skill if you can take references out of their context. In that way, you can use them to construct your own
story scientific writing. If you are out of references, you can always quote your own papers.
At least, do not forget to quote papers from your own department. Or swap your referencing. Circular economy is also an hot topic, so why not do some circular referencing? That is a sustainable use of paper and mental energy! You want to help your colleagues raise their index, right? Or are you this nasty, narcissistic type of scientist?
For the sake of students and science, let’s write papers that are readable.
Does this sound recognizable? Obviously, there are no actual laws to make your publications incredible dull. But it still seems that many papers are written by these laws. Personally, I must say that it seems many academic papers were designed to equal boredom itself. Moreover, it seems we teach ourselves to write in this particular way.
The insights in a scientific paper can be world-changing, the authors can be breakthrough scientists and in many cases deserve all respect. Luckily, there are a large number of journals valuing original and focused papers. But why are so many papers designed to clutter your brains with the drunkenness of boredom? Why not make a change and write papers that are appealing, full of actionable insights and humor and considerable? Often, the insights of a paper deserve this. For the sake of students and the advancement of science, let’s write papers that readable. It is not hard to make difficult. Making things simple, however, is another skill.