Natural Science and Writing

James Bakalar1 opined that natural scientists write more clearly than other professionals and suggested it was because natural scientists' subject matter and audience demanded clear thinking. It may also be the case that their subject matter itself directly facilitates clear expression. Natural scientists' knowledge base consists heavily of definitive formulations, such as equations and well-established laboratory procedures. These can be described straightforwardly to an audience. Social scie

Alan Reifman
Feb 20, 2000

James Bakalar1 opined that natural scientists write more clearly than other professionals and suggested it was because natural scientists' subject matter and audience demanded clear thinking.

It may also be the case that their subject matter itself directly facilitates clear expression. Natural scientists' knowledge base consists heavily of definitive formulations, such as equations and well-established laboratory procedures. These can be described straightforwardly to an audience. Social scientists and humanities scholars, on the other hand, work from a more subjective knowledge base, based more on opinions and less quantifiable theories.

The late psychologist Stanley Schachter and colleagues2 tested this idea using an ingenious research design. They sent observers into university classrooms to count how often lecturers in various disciplines exhibited speech disfluencies such as "um" or "uh." Sure enough, natural science lecturers had by far the lowest disfluency rate; although more disfluent than natural scientists, social scientists in turn...

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