Clear as mud -- -- 介绍一篇关于科技文章写作的文章 (with部分翻译)

Clear as mud -- -- 介绍一篇关于科技文章写作的文章



像泥浆一样清晰(Clear as Mud) by Jonathan Knight
水龙吟 译

“没有什么形式的文章比一般的学术论文更乏味、难懂的了。”Francis Crick 1994年在他的《惊人的假说》一书中这样写道。这是书中对那些打算深入探究文章引文的外行人士的劝诫。但是,DNA的发现者之一也曾说过一个科学界众所周知的话:读研究论文有时就像场噩梦。






(以下略,有兴趣的去看原文吧。^_^ )

“There is no form of prose more difficult to understand and more tedious to read than the average scientific paper,” wrote Francis Crick in his 1994 book The Astonishing Hypothesis. The observation is a caution to lay readers tempted to delve into the papers referenced in the book. But the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA was also acknowledging what everyone in science knows: research papers can be a nightmare to read.

It wasn’t always so. Crick and others of his generation, who began writing scientific papers in the 1940s, have witnessed the transformation of scientific prose. A form that was as readable as the average newspaper has, in some fields, become a jungle of jargon that even those familiar with the territory struggle to understand.

The balkanization of science into subdisciplines, each with its own vocabulary, is largely to blame. Many journals are trying to tackle this, producing easy-to-read summaries of papers, and linking online papers to web-based glossaries. But these approaches tend to have a limited impact, whereas addressing other factors — notably writing style — could transform many papers. Writing takes practice, yet it is not part of standard scientific training. So could science become readable again if researchers went back to school and took writing lessons?

Readability itself is not easy to quantify. Microsoft’s Word program features the Flesch Reading Ease scale, which measures the average length of words and sentences to calculate the number of years of education needed to comprehend a document. But such tools fail on several counts. For one, a long sentence that walks the reader own a path to its conclusion can be easier to follow than a muddled short sentence. And common words can be relatively long — technological or professor, for example — hereas many technical terms are short,such as meson,genome or glycan.


The effects of an increasingly opaque literature are easy to imagine, if difficult to
quantify. If opening paragraphs or abstracts are difficult to understand, researchers
may miss opportunities for collaboration between disciplines. If whole papers are unclear, students get diverted to other interests and the public’s fear and mistrust of science, which in part arises from difficulties in understanding new research,may increase.