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Top 10 tips for writing boring papers

Posted Feb 22 2011 10:18am

Our good friend Nando Boero , to whom thanks are due for introducing us to Ray Troll , has evaluated another paper. This one is four years old and hidden away in Oikos , and has the intriguing title How to write consistently boring scientific literature 1 .

Kaj Sand-Jensen of the University of Copenhagen has ten key tips for writing boring scientific literature:

  • Avoid focus
  • Avoid originality and personality
  • Write l o n g contributions
  • Remove implications and speculations
  • Leave out illustrations
  • Omit necessary steps of reasoning
  • Use many abbreviations and terms
  • Suppress humor and flowery language
  • Degrade biology to statistics
  • Quote numerous papers for trivial statements

Nando gets all philosophical in his evaluation , waxing lyrical on Frank Zappa, chemistry and fun (three terms I never thought I’d ever concatenate), with the provocative conclusion,

And then we end up with economic catastrophes and in societies made by sick old people who refuse to die. Science can do wonders, but it needs some more humor, and art, and beauty.

Compare that with Kent Berridge ‘s 2007 evaluation of the same paper, which in its entirety reads

A charming paper that lays out a simple set of easy-to-follow rules for the scientist who aspires to write boring papers.

Now anyone can do it (or not — as you choose)!

User discretion advised.

Two very different evaluations, but neither of them boring. Why can’t all scientific literature be like this?

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