How to translate academic bullsh*t

The following list of phrases and their definitions might help you understand the fuzzy language of science and medicine. These special phrases are also applicable to anyone reading a PhD dissertation or academic paper. Original author unknown…

“IT HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN”… I didn’t look up the original reference.

“A DEFINITE TREND IS EVIDENT”… These data are practically meaningless.

“WHILE IT HAS NOT BEEN POSSIBLE TO PROVIDE DEFINITE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS”… An unsuccessful experiment but I still hope to get it published.

“THREE OF THE SAMPLES WERE CHOSEN FOR DETAILED STUDY”… The other results didn’t make any sense.

“TYPICAL RESULTS ARE SHOWN”… This is the prettiest graph.

“THESE RESULTS WILL BE IN A SUBSEQUENT REPORT”… I might get around to this sometime, if pushed/funded.

“IN MY EXPERIENCE”… Once.

“IN CASE AFTER CASE”… Twice.

“IN A SERIES OF CASES”… Thrice.

“IT IS BELIEVED THAT”… I think.

“IT IS GENERALLY BELIEVED THAT”… A couple of others think so, too.

“CORRECT WITHIN AN ORDER OF MAGNITUDE” … Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

“ACCORDING TO STATISTICAL ANALYSIS”… Rumor has it.

“A STATISTICALLY-ORIENTED PROJECTION OF THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE FINDINGS”… A really wild guess.

“A CAREFUL ANALYSIS OF OBTAINABLE DATA”… Three pages of notes were obliterated when I knocked over a beer glass.

“IT IS CLEAR THAT MUCH ADDITIONAL WORK WILL BE REQUIRED BEFORE A COMPLETE UNDERSTANDING OF THIS PHENOMENON OCCURS”… I don’t understand it….and I never will.

“AFTER ADDITIONAL STUDY BY MY COLLEAGUES”… They don’t understand it either.

“A HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT AREA FOR EXPLORATORY STUDY”… A totally useless topic selected by my committee.

“IT IS HOPED THAT THIS STUDY WILL STIMULATE FURTHER INVESTIGATION IN THIS FIELD”… I am pleased to feed you bullsh*t.

Keep all the bullsh*t out of your writing!

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  1. Laury Burr says:

    A good hoot, this. It’s always good to be sceptical [US: skeptical] about quasi-scientific articles, and I do sometimes wonder whether there’s an inverse relationship between wordiness and truth.

    But you did omit the most reliable identifier of BS, namely:

    “QUANTUM PHYSICS TELLS US THAT…”: 99% probability that this is bullsh*t and that the writer is eithewr a snake-oil salesman or lives in lalaland. In either case you can be sure that quantum physics tells you nothing at all about this latest tale of woo. Please check their scientific qualifications just in case the writer is to be believed.

  2. Nice one, Laury!

  3. Oh, I wish I’d thought of this.

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