Week 6 – Writing

While considering the question that Prof. Gaily proposed this week, I came to the realization that I was not fond of many of the research works I had to read throughout my academic career. There are new forms of knowledge distribution that I have enjoyed, TEDTalks, RSA (and RSA animate) videos, speeches made by Sir. Ken Robinson, but I could not think of an example in written form.

If I had to list one author who’s research works I admired, it would have to be Michael Crichton. I was, and still am, an avid fan of his novels, all of which come complete with an impressive reference section at the end. I enjoyed his work because it was interesting and fun to read. One moment I’m taken into a story about interdimensional travel, the next he would use the double slit experiment to explain the properties of electrons, in a way that I (as a 15 year old at the time) could understand. I think with a lot of academic writing there is limited consideration for the audience. Yes many of these works are created for academics already well versed in the subject matter, but as students we too find ourselves needing to access these works. I am not saying that academic writing should be dumbed down to a grade 5 reading level, such as newspapers, but I do feel that choice of language being used is done so to force readers to slow down and invest their attention rather than conveying information concisely. When information is made easily accessible, it is more likely to be consumed by a greater audience (see, Malcolm Gladwell, Brian Greene).

Liz (and others) have pointed out that to be a good writer, you should also spend time reading. This reminded me of another influence of mine, Groucho Marx, who as a child would lock himself in the bathroom so that he could read. It was through his practice of reading that he was able to develop his brilliant wit. “Well I thought my razor was dull until I heard his speech, and that reminds me of a story that’s so dirty I’m ashamed to think of it myself.” (McLeod, 1932)

Conte, C., Leaf, D., Merwald, F., White, D.[Producer] & Leaf, D., Scheinfeld, J. [Director]. (2002) Unknown Marx Bros. [Motion Picture]. USA. Paradox.

Crichton, M. (1999). Timeline. USA: Fredrick

McLeod, N. [Director]. (1932) Horse Feathers. [Motion Picture]. USA. Paramount Pictures.


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