Why are the academic articles/reports so difficult to read and understand?

Discussion in 'Off-topic Discussion' started by New Challenger, Sep 25, 2019.

  1. New Challenger

    New Challenger Fapstronaut

    72
    27
    18
    I am a Psychology student. Although English is not my mother tongue but I can speak English fluently, read English newspapers, letters and even university text books quite well. But when it comes to academic articles/reports, things become extremely ugly and frustrating. I would easily get lost in the middle of the article, have completely no idea what the article/report is trying to say. The sentences are horribly long, many of them are in the length of a paragraph. whats makes things even worse than they already are is that the sentence structure is very complicated, with tons of words I do not know the meaning of. Even if I check the meaning on dictionary to get the meaning of those words, they still do not make sense at all. Sometimes I think the article/report writers did this on purpose to give their readers hard time because that seriously frustrates me when spending hours and days to study but ended up not being able to understand the articles/reports we are required to read for the major assignment.
     
  2. I know exactly what you mean. It's baffling to me too.

    I had a Harvard grad who had written several books tell me that he doesn't understand it either. He said he wrote his books so that anyone with a high school education could understand them. Why eliminate a big chuck of society from being able to read his books that he felt would be useful to all?

    I think there might be some nauseating professional pride that's involved. "We're going to make it hard for those that aren't us to become us."
     
  3. Research papers have a very different demographic than a normally marketed book. Ultimately they're not meant to be for the average reader. They're written by experts for other experts and the readers have to be able to consistently recreate the results -- that's why they're peer reviewed. Researchers risk not getting published if they aren't detailed and data driven with their papers.
     
  4. I know what you mean, man. I was a psych major as well. I don't know how far along you are in your degree, but I think once you learn the key elements of a research report, you will understand it better. But I agree with you about the sentence structure and absurdly long paragraphs. That's not really necessary. You can provide your results in a less convoluted way most of the time.
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  5. onceaking

    onceaking Fapstronaut

    Maybe it's to stop just anyone from writing an academic paper. It can be frustrating for me since I have dyslexia but I got into it after some guidance from my tutor.
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  6. MLMVSS

    MLMVSS Fapstronaut

    574
    7,549
    123
    I am ecstatically delighted and disproportionately flabbergasted, simultaneously with enormous gratification and appreciation for the dispensation of such a tendering and mesmerizing information, in which the prestidigitation of the concurrent and subsequent matter is thoroughly demonstrated through the innuances alluding to literal and metaphorical context. It is highly imperative to note that, such is the significance of the aforementioned, distortion in any shape or form will result in catastrophic ramifications to which will be the outcome of epic proportions.

    It’s just a bunch of things put together to make them sound smarter.
     
  7. Steven Pinker explained this exact phenomenon in his talk at the Royal Institution:



    Some of it may be that not everyone is a good writer, it takes practice to develop a style and requires quite some time.
    I struggle with many diagrams or graphs I see made by fellow colleagues, but I can't blame them. Often there is little time
    to put in the effort and learn how to write properly and what diagrams should look like (having descriptive labels for example).

    If you figured this is a problem in academia, just write a better paper than your colleagues: Simple and clean, enough white-space,
    well structured and written.

    EDIT: I tried to link to the time 31:27 in the video
     
  8. They only do it to fill in the sheets of the book
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  9. KS1994

    KS1994 Fapstronaut

    64
    308
    53
    Most articles are just filler and busy work. Abstract, p-value, correlation score (0-1) and the first paragraph of introduction. Focus on these things and you can understand any journal article.
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  10. New Challenger

    New Challenger Fapstronaut

    72
    27
    18
    Thanks for the reply and the understanding in this matter buddy. This is my very first session of the Psychology course. And the report I am required to read is not the first psychology report I have read. I have read quite a few reports before for my personal interest in the field of 'intelligence' and 'neuroplasticity', they are not that hard, at least not as hard as the one I need to read before I could start my assignment. Probably this is because I do not need to understand the tables and the terms properly when reading them only for my own personal interest.
     
    Deleted Account likes this.
  11. New Challenger

    New Challenger Fapstronaut

    72
    27
    18
    This is exactly how the reports/articles I am required to read looked like buddy.
     
    MLMVSS likes this.
  12. Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm sure it'll get easier as you go. Don't be afraid to ask someone for help :) hopefully you have a good teacher who would be willing to help you understand it better.
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  13. Bombadil

    Bombadil Fapstronaut

    1) because academics like to show off
    2) because of word limits (putting it simply usually takes up more space)
    3) because (and science writers I'm looking at you) academics of a certain age suddenly decide they can write and use all the fancy stuff they themselves don't really understand. They don't recognise that while they might be great scientists, they are often crap writers.
    4) because they are writing something complicated in a foreign language
    5) because of peer review - much of what you see has been written by a committee

    It does get easier though. Once you understand the concepts better it's easier to decipher the writing (which is pretty damn ass-backwards, but ho hum)
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  14. MLMVSS

    MLMVSS Fapstronaut

    574
    7,549
    123
    I’ll post a serious answer this time.

    In an ironic twist of fate, the jargon’s not there to make the paper confusing. It’s there to make the paper concise. Oh, the irony. But hear me out:

    It’s one thing to understand a paper, but it’s a whole different level to recreate the study the researchers performed, which is needed during the peer review process. Keep in mind that many of these papers involve months of research combined with several possibilities on how X came to be, and they need to explain how they did it in the most concise way possible. It’s a skill that takes years to hone; likewise it can take quite awhile to learn to read in this fashion.

    Also, the intended audience is almost never to laymen. It’s usually to Ph.D-level researchers in Acadaemia who may or may not interpret the research to commonspeak.
     
    New Challenger likes this.
  15. I have a PhD in Physics, it's the same in my domain. Articles are boring, hard to understand and it takes a gigantic effort and total concentration to understand them. It made me feel like being dumb and inadequate for my own field.
    However this is not the truth. The truth is that these publications are badly written. They are often written by non-native English speakers, written by several people what makes things even worse. And their main goal is to describe precisely the topic. Rare are the authors that think about having a style And a scientist is not often gifted in literature, so they just suck. You should also pay attention to what kind of papers you're reading. All those low and middle class journals are full hard to understand publications. But have a look at high end journals like Nature or Science. They have papers with much higher style.
     

Share This Page