Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Word choice in discussion of research results

From the badscience blog:

"Polish researcher Michael Jasienski reported in the journal Nature recently how he searched for words indicating surprise in 30 million abstracts of English-language scientific papers from the Science Citation Index; he then compared them with 8 million academic articles from the Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities citation indices, and with some samples of standard English.

The word ’surprising’ appeared 12 times more frequently in the natural sciences than in standard English, and 1.3 times more frequently than in social sciences, arts and humanities research; and the word ‘unexpected’ appears 39 times and 2.2 times more frequently in the natural sciences than, respectively, in standard English and in non-science academic writing. Obviously humanities graduates don’t find their “discoveries” as surprising as scientists do. It must be a dreary life
."

The study he mentions is reported in a letter to Nature: Jasienski M. It's incredible how often we're surprised by findings. Nature 2006 Apr 27;440(7088):1112; PubMed record (access to full text of letter requires a subscription to the journal).

2 Comments:

At 10:46 AM, Blogger Rachel said...

Unexpectedly, I am not at all surprised by these discoveries.

 
At 9:49 PM, Blogger BeckyJ said...

Even more shocking - a PubMed search including variations on the word "surprise" retrieves over 45,000 citations.

 

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