By Tom Wyke for MailOnline. University students will be pleased to learn that new research suggests many academic papers are now written in such complicated prose that hardly anyone can understand them. Scientists have found that long-winded titles and laborious sentence structures in academic articles can make a paper less influential. The controversial British biologist Richard Dawkins has written in his forthcoming volume of his memoirs about the issue. Stephen Pinker, the Harvard psychologist criticised the 'professionalism narcissism' of some authors. The findings have led some scientists to joke on social media about the worst sentences they have read in an academic paper.
Sometimes they could be much better written. Not everything can — or should — be easy. Either way, knowing some of the reasons why an academic text you may have been assigned to read is so turgid and unpleasant may ease the pain just a bit. What follows is my short list of common assumptions about academic writing, and my own explanation for why people get that impression. Important background for this discussion is in my earlier post, What Is Academic Writing?
Not all classes are created equally. Throughout your academic experience, you may find yourself in a class that you find to be unengaging. The challenge will be to still get a good grade and complete the course. But how do you survive a boring class?
W hy is academic writing so boring? I am impatient by nature, easily irritated, and afflicted with a short attention span. That I ended up in a job where I have to spend half the day blinking my way through artless, contorted prose is a cruel twist of fate. But the upside is that it gives me plenty of opportunity to reflect on why reading academic writing is so often a chore and so rarely a joy. Of course it is one of our more valuable chores.