Believe it or not, scientists do not always take themselves too seriously. We can laugh at ourselves and the sometimes rigid conventions of our profession. Take, for example, this guide to translating the formal language of scientific articles into plain English.
Statement Really means It has long been known... I haven't bothered to look up the reference. It is thought that... I think so. It is generally thought that... A couple of other people think so, too. It is not unreasonable to assume... If you believe this, you'll believe anything. Of great theoretical importance... I find it interesting. Of great practical importance... I can get some good mileage out of it. Typical results are shown. The best results are shown. Three samples were chosen for further study. The others didn't make sense, so we ignored them. The second sample was not used. I dropped it on the floor. Results obtained with the second sample must be interpreted with caution. I dropped it on the floor but managed to scoop most of it up. Correct within an order of magnitude. Incorrect. Much additional work will be required. This paper isn't very good, but neither is anyone else's. These investigations yielded highly rewarding results. My grant will be renewed. This research was supported by a grant from... I wonder if the taxpayers know they're paying for this? A line of best fit was drawn using least-squares regression. I drew it by hand. A non-linear relationship was found. I drew it by hand and I didn't use a ruler. Stringent controls were implemented. My advisor was watching. I thank X for assistance with the experiments and Y for useful discussions on the interpretation of the data. X did the experiment and Y explained it to me.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Guide to Translating Scientific Papers Into Plain English
A tremendously handy guide for reading academic articles: