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對于英語非母語的留學生而言,學術essay寫作的捷徑是多讀些別人的優質論文,同時也必須了解學術寫作的一些理論和要點。今天主要分享麻省理工學院Ezra Zuckerman Sivan的一篇短文Tips to Article Writers。Meeloun小編會加上簡單翻譯和注解或一些書籍章節,以便拓寬、加深理解。

      1. Use substantive motivations, not aesthetic ones. By an aesthetic motivation, I mean that the author is appealing to the reader's sense that a certain kind of theory or approach should be preferred regardless of its explanatory power (e.g., we should be avoiding “economistic” or “functionalist” or “reductionist” explanations). Sometimes aesthetic motivations work (for getting a paper accepted), but the contribution tends to be hollow because the end of research (figuring out how the world works) is sacrificed for the means (telling each other how much we like certain ideas). Another way of putting this is that we should not like a paper simply because it proudly displays the colors of our tribe.


      2. Always frame around the dependent variable. The dependent variable is a question and the independent variables are answers to a question. So it makes no sense to start with an answer. Rather, start with a question/puzzle! (Note that I don't mean the literal dependent variable in the analysis in the paper, but the larger process/pattern that it is supposed to represent).


      3. Frame around a puzzle in the world, not a literature. The only reason anyone cares about a literature is because it is helpful in clarifying puzzles in the world. So start with the puzzle. A related point is that just because a literature has not examined some phenomenon, that does not mean that you should. The only reason a phenomenon is interesting is if it poses a puzzle for existing ways of viewing the world. (Too often, I read papers that try to get motivation from the fact that a literature "has not looked at" x, y, or z. So what? There will always be a great deal of unstudied [by academics] phenomena. The question is why that matters. )

      解析:圍繞一個問題/謎團行文,而不是一篇文獻發現沒有人報道就上馬研究。沒人做過,不代表有價值;具有可探索性以及其附帶因果邏輯的問題,才有價值研究。Introduction里引出自己研究內容的用詞要注意了,雖然可能是說同一個研究,但表述為since X has not been studied, we...而不是陳述其涉及到的前因后果,就可能讓人覺得這是一個為了研究而研究的無價值工作。也可以簡單理解為“包裝”。

      4. One hypothesis (or a few tightly related hypotheses) is enough. If people remember a paper at all, they will remember it for one idea. So no use trying to stuff a zillion ideas in a paper. A related problem with numerous hypotheses is that it’s never clear what implications the invalidation of any one hypothesis has for the theory. (Note: the organizations community apparently does not agree with me on this one)


      5. Build up the null hypothesis to be as compelling as possible. A paper will not be interesting unless there is a really compelling null hypothesis. If there is no interesting alternative to the author's argument, why would anyone care about it? Flogging straw men is both unfair and uninteresting.


      6. Save the null. Since the null is compelling, it must be right under certain conditions. The author's job is to explain to the reader that s/he was right to believe x about the world, but that since x doesn't hold under certain conditions, s/he should shift to belief x‘. This helps the reader feel comfortable about shifting to a new idea. Moreover, a very subtle shift in thinking can go a long way.


      7.Orient the reader. The reader needs to know at all times how any sentence fits into the narrative arc of the paper. All too often, I read papers where I get lost in the trees and have no sense of the forest. The narrative arc should start with the first paragraph or two where a question/puzzle is framed and lead to the main finding of the paper. Everything else in the paper should be in service of that arc, either by clarifying the question or setting up the answer (including painstakingly dealing with objections). A related tip is:


      8. Never write literature reviews. No one likes to read literature reviews. They are borrring. So don't write them. But that doesn't mean you should ignore "the relevant literature." To the contrary. You have raised a puzzle about the real world (see tips 3-5). One reason why it is a puzzle is because existing answers are compelling (see point 7), but flawed. So you review the literature not as an end in itself but because you show what is compelling but flawed about existing answers. Any research that does not pertain to that objective can remain unmentioned. (Ok, ok. Some reviewers will demand to see their names or that of their favorite scholars even when their work is essentially irrelevant. And it is usually good to anticipate that. But try to do as little as possible.).