05 November 2009

Repudiation (or A Cry to All Mothers with Children)

I recently finished reading two scholarly works for my International Studies class and had an interesting observation. Both of them were incredibly dry. They were not dry because they were discussing boring topics, in fact the topics were very interesting; rather they were dry because they lacked variety and flavor in the writing itself. The first paper's writing style would have failed any English teacher I have ever had if only because the number of times the writers used the term "repudiation". If it were a swear word, a sailor would have been offended. I love the word, especially in context of the paper's topic. It means 'to put off' or 'to shed as a garment', and in the context of newly established democracies it is a beautiful description of the process of reverting back to the more stable government they were used to. My problem is that they used "repudiation" and only "repudiation" to describe this process. Reading the same word repeatedly in a academic paper is just appalling, there are so many more words that could be used to describe what is happening and they should have used them. That way, when they finally do use "repudiation" we, the readers, can be struck by the beauty and eloquence of the word. Instead the writers have robbed us of any opportunity to savor the verbose wording by abusing and even profaning the word.

The paper I read before this one was about the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The story they told was a fascinating story of intrigue, sorrow and struggle, but the writers of this paper committed the same sin as the prior in terms of dryness. It was unbearably boring. What I don't understand is this: do the writers not understand that if 'normal' people could read, understand and enjoy their paper they would take more interest in the issues the papers raise. If people are taking more interest is their papers they would receive more funding (because people fund things they find interesting) and thus be able to research more (because researchers like to research things they find interesting) and other people would then become interested and start working to make changes (because activists like to promote things they find interesting) and the world would become a better place (or at least more people would be happily distracted by things they find interesting). But this doesn't happen because the papers the researchers write are so boring and dry that no one reads them for fun.

So what was my take away lesson from these politically bound writings: good writing that captures the imagination, stimulates the mind and enlivens the soul is important even in otherwise bland and boring contexts (such as political science). More so, researchers need to make a choice: is it more important to be "right" by throwing around big words that only their peers can understand OR is it more important to be broadly read because they forsook the "high" language and instead wrote so everyone could understand them? In other words: do they want a few people to enjoy reading their papers OR would they rather most smart people in the world being excited to read their paper?

Tough choice, I know.

I almost forget the "cry to all mothers with children" part. It is simple. Please, please, mothers, if your children begin to express a deep interest in Political Science make sure they learn the value and skill of good and interest writing, lest the continue to perpetuate the boring research papers that keep the world from knowing and understanding the issues that they work so hard to research.

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