Academic and Research Paper Writing in a Layperson’s Language

The Temptation of Overcomplication?

Teachers are well aware of the tricks their students employ to increase the number of words in an assignment that demands a specific word count requirement. Suddenly, the word “now” becomes “at this precise point in time.” Why use one word when six can substantially make the essay lengthier?

Academic writers often fall prey to a similar problem. The pressure of writing for a prominent journal, combined with a self-imposed expectation of making the research appear as technical and authoritative as possible, can lead to needless wordiness in an attempt to impress fellow researchers, peer reviewers, and journal editors.

While justifiable, this practice is considered disrespectful to a wider audience, who may not be familiar with the technical jargon with which you are so keen on impressing them. There is also a potential problem for you to consider—“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough,” as Einstein once asserted.

Allocentric vs. Egocentric Style of Writing

After spending months engrossed in the data and mechanics of a research study, you can easily slip into the spiral of an egocentric writing style where you document everything from your perspective as a researcher rather than from the standpoint of the reader of your manuscript.

On the contrary, using an allocentric writing style makes you acknowledge that your reader may know almost nothing about your topic at all.

The subscribers of a particular journal are expected to be familiar with the terminology of the field, but to make such an assumption in your writing poses challenges to other readers who may look forward to developing their knowledge in that field.

Who is a Layperson?

A layperson is someone who does not possess the technical knowledge of an expert. At times, all of us are forced to read materials as a layperson as we cannot be an expert in everything.

You need to recognize that these readers are not unintelligent; they simply are not as familiar with the content and terminologies as you are. They have totally legitimate reasons for reading your research paper. They may be interested in increasing their general knowledge or looking to follow the same track as yours and develop proficiency in the field over time.

Eventually, it’s about Professionalism and Integrity!

As academics, we invest a lot of time and attention on research integrity concerning ethical conduct such as plagiarism and data fabrication that are conveniently explained away under the guise of pressure to “publish or perish.” Ensuring that your writing is allocentric enough to stay understandable to laypeople should be an equally important aspect of research integrity.

Your dedication to science may focus on adding to the body of knowledge through your research, but you can also contribute to science by making your work accessible to future scientists from every walk of life, rather than just those who keep up with the same glossary as you do.

Since the turn of the century, Cormac McCarthy—whose ten novels include No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian—has provided invaluable editing advice to numerous faculty members and postdocs at the Santa Fe Institute (SFI) in New Mexico. Here are a select few nuggets of wisdom from McCarthy:

  1. Use minimalism to achieve clarity. Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.
  2. Limit each paragraph to a single message.
  3. Don’t overelaborate. Keep sentences short, simply constructed, and direct.
  4. Write to be understood than to form grammatically perfect sentences.
  5. When you make your writing more lively and easier to understand, people will want to invest their time reading your work.

Definitely, they will.

Besides, if you are looking for an AI-driven writing tool to enhance your writing, then check out Trinka, the world’s first language enhancement tool that is custom-built for academic and technical writing. It has several exclusive features to make your manuscript ready for the global audience.

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