Sunday, February 1, 2015

Academic writing: Should fun be intended?

I have faced a problem many a time. When I write something scientific, it becomes too autobiographical. If I try to keep it ‘scientific’, then it becomes too boring for me to finish! But the bigger problem is reading the scientific papers. While reviewing literature for my thesis or for writing a review paper, I have to struggle to finish one 15-20 page research paper and sadly, sometimes, it does not matter how interesting the study is! And, I am an avid reader. I love to read anything – be it the newspaper wrappings around things or a book. Actually, the fatter a book is, the more excited I get! I finish 700-800 pages in maximum 2 days but when it comes to academic papers, it takes me 7 days and a lot of pep talks in my head to finish 15 pages! I have thought a lot about it and yes, it came to my mind that maybe I am not interested in the topic. But that hypothesis did not stand ground as I have found myself dozing off with topics I am very interested in and reading papers on topics that I never thought I would. And then it strikes me. It’s nor me, it’s them.
I mean no disrespect here but scientific writings are boring, right? Now, I know they are not for general entertainment purpose but are for fulfilling the higher intellectual needs of mankind and so are not for everyone. I get that pretty well but what I don’t get is why. Why every other person with an interest in Physics can’t read a paper of quantum mechanics and say ‘Yeah, I get it’? Why do I have to struggle to read a research paper in my own field? Why most of us hate our history books when they have some of the best stories to tell? Does it really have something to do with writing?
I think it has a lot to do with writing. During my Masters, I finished the book “Diffusion of Innovations” by E. M. Rogers in 3 days. I was reading it day and night and my roommate thought I was having exams. I haven’t read any other text/reference book like that. The Harry Potter is wonderful but hasn’t there been better stories? So what made it become the craze? It’s the storytelling that also matters. The simple language that any kid can understand without sitting with a dictionary - that’s art! So why can’t science and art co-exist in academic writing? Why does it have to be devoid of the art of storytelling? Why can’t the intellectuality be maintained along with play with words? If the work was fun, why not show it? Why make it so unintelligible for the common people? And how much serious is serious? Who decides the degree of ‘seriousness’ of a scientific writing? If it was up to me, I would make a story out of every paper. If I love my research, I should make others fall in love with it too; not doze off of boredom reading about it!
Maybe I am not thinking right. Maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. But still, I don’t understand why I can enjoy a random non-fiction but not a book on Agriculture. It is not supposed to be that way, right? I do wish someone would correct me if I am wrong and explain to me why it is what it is.

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