Sunday, January 16, 2011

Academic Treacle

The blogger Guido Fawkes seems delighted that he has achieved the respectability of being mentioned in an academic report for the journal 'Parliamentary Affairs'. Sadly, it's a report written in a typical academic style that is probably most closely analogous to the art of wading through a noticeably thick treacle. Lots of long words to hide a limited conclusion. It starts like this -

The 1990s e-democracy paradigm was preoccupied with the creation of deliberative spaces, particularly discussion forums.

And if I mention that that's one of the shorter, snappier sentences, you begin to get a sense of why it's unlikely to be a best-seller, for all its presence on one of the UK internet's most visited blogs. The research done by political academics can often be illuminating and valuable, but why it has to be written in so utterly impenetrable a style I'll never understand, and it does nothing to attract students to studying politics at university. Do we really have to extract the life out of a fascinating study in this way? In the deathless prose of our 'Parliamentary Affairs' authors, it might be an issue of quality, and notoriously -

‘Quality’ as a concept can be too wide and too subjective for empirical study unless a clear definition of the constituents and the exclusions is made.

5 comments:

consultant said...

No doubt you'd rather academics "dumb down" their work to better appeal to the ignorant masses, perhaps writing in the style of "Heat" magazine or "the Daily Telegraph"?

GM said...

No - but I'd like them to make it comprehensible. There's no virtue in obfuscating your research beneath a tortuous style of 'academese'. While the research that academics do is important, so too is the clarity of expression with which they communicate it. I want their efforts to gain currency in a wider world, and so uplift the collective mind, but it happens much more slowly when they refuse to write in a sparer, cleaner fashion. I wouldn't want them to go quite as far as my old history professor, who held down a weekly column in the 'Sun', but they could produce more approachable academic papers. Or perhaps they feel that academic research is simply not for the little people, rather like the pre-Reformation catholic priesthood who stuck to Latin because God's word was simply too holy for ordinary mortals to read in their own tongue!

Guido Fawkes said...

Would take no delight in becoming respectable.

GM said...

Ha Ha - no doubt!!

Anonymous said...

bant from GM