Friday, August 29, 2008

I hate scientific writing

Activities I consider preferable are:

  • Getting knocked off a motorcycle at high speed
  • Rolling a kayak with a broken tailbone
  • Getting a hostile customs interrogation from drunk border guards

I don’t mind doing posters, and I love talking at conferences. And before I wrote my PhD thesis I actually enjoyed writing non-scientific stuff. And after a few years of post thesis shell shock, one reason I started this blog was to try and befriend words again. But after a month and a half of report writing, I’m having a relapse. So don’t be surprised if substantive blogging tails off. I’ve moved past the procrastination stage to the wimper under the desk stage. I don’t even have the motivation to ink a cartoon, which would let me post with no words at all. Goodnight people.

7 comments:

hypocentre said...

Been there, bought the tee-shirt.

I still use my blog as an attempt to break writer's block.

Hang in there. I always maintain that most PhD theses are abandoned rather than finished.

hypocentre said...

I think I should qualify my last comment.

By 'abandoned' I mean "stuff this, I'm submitting this" rather than "this is finished to my satisfaction, I'm going to submit this now"

squawky said...

To follow up on hypocentre's comments, I think there's a small fraction of writers who can never get to the "I'm ready to submit" stage because, well, the writing is never perfect. There's always another test to do, a paper to read, or some thinking to do.

But I admit to the same "post thesis shell shock"... my own blog sits idle, papers sit unedited, and any pre-grad school ideas of publishing some good fiction died years ago. Maybe we need to start a support group? :)

Maria said...

Post-thesis shell shock? Yeah! I totally need a new excuse for not blogging much this summer, that'll do perfectly!

ChrisPhoenix said...

My ex-wife put a message to herself on her computer monitor while writing her thesis: "You've spent $15,000 on this - now get the receipt."

Jimilee said...

I doubt the public health student society I just joined would publish my "rant"... glad I found your blog so I could get it out...!

This may not go over well. I get the sense people in public health take themselves very seriously (with good reason, no doubt)... but I have a confession to make.

I hate scientific writing. I hate reading it, I hate writing it. Dead words on a page that allow the research to speak for itself. Objective. Voiceless. Soulless. Lifeless. ZZZZZZZZZZ.

I guess I should've weighed my radical "anti-science" leanings into the equation before I decided getting a graduate degree in public health - with its hours upon hours of life-time-&-energy draining journal article assignments - was a good idea.

I admit I'm a lazy reader. Mainly because I'm a slow reader. I like short sentences. I like to use as few words as possible to get my point across whenever possible. I'm punctuation-phobic. It's no wonder I'm a fan and promoter of the Center for Plain Language. I guess the real problem is I'm a writer. As in creative writer. I always have to crush that romance-novel inspired urge to add some flair to my writing. And I think we all have to deal with the GLUT of information resources available to us. I like to read (skim) articles that don't make me work so hard to figure out what happened.

Once upon a time, I wanted a PhD so I entered a program to study psychology. I became disillusioned with the drive to publish (well, publish anything scientific). I resisted the "evidence-based research" drive to pull apart
phenomena, inspect its pieces, weigh them, then crunch some numbers in a statistical application to decide how powerfully we are able to predict and ideally prevent X phenomenon from happening.

All these hoops to jump through so I could add a publication to my CV. Give me a break. When it comes to people, there will always be things you will never be able to weigh, measure, control or
predict. It's messy folks. But that's humanity.

And by the way... where do the people we're trying to help figure in this drive to publish in peer-reviewed journals? how are those people helped by the articles we're publishing in our peer-reviewed journals? how can they access beneficial information when it's locked in these obscure, overpriced academic periodicals?

Yes, I know it's valuable for practitioners to develop programs based on sound science. I guess I need to get in touch with my inner control freak. (oops I forgot... I don't have one! as the contents of the trunk of my car will verify).

So I ask, must I worship the data, the whole data, and nothing but the bone-dry data? And I ask... am I the only public health promotion practitioner (wannabe) out there with a budding novelist waiting to burst free? how exactly do I do that in public health? is there room for me and my creativity? any advice on how to channel (or put the kibosh on) my inner teen rebel who just loves to do things a little bit different?

There's this new book out I want to get called "Communicating Public Health Information Effectively." I really want to read it, though I'll be surprised if it contains any words of wisdom for how to deal with the flowery prose on the "tip" of my mental tongue yearning to dance a jig all over that voiceless APA formatted report I just submitted...

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