Then, I asked them what was different about the two styles of writing. Here’s the list they came up with, in the order they arrived at them, with only the last one being my addition.
|Journal article||Blog post|
|Rare words||Common words|
|Divided into sections||Continuous|
|Few examples||Many examples|
|Forum for scientific debate||Not intended for debate|
|Supported by authors’ credentials||Supported by author’s reputation|
I was interested by the issue of rare words. There were at least eight words on the first page of the journal article that at least one student had no concept of what it meant. From memory, some were “protostome,” “olfactory,” “prebilaterian,” “topology,” “errant.” There wasn’t one word in the excerpt of Carl Zimmer’s article that they didn’t recognize.
Some of the students also thought that scientific journals required people have doctorates to publish in them – which I’ve never seen listed as a requirement for any journal. It was kind of fun to tell them that I’d co-authored a journal article with someone who was in high school at the time we did most of the work.
That students brought out the idea of a journal as a place for debate stands in contrast to this morning’s post at The Scholarly Kitchen about how little debate there is in journals.
Finally, I’m a little worried. Point #3 on this list suggests I am supposed to teach the students how to be boring.
Tomer R, Denes AS, Tessmar-Raible K, Arendt D. 2010. Profiling by image registration reveals common origin of annelid mushroom bodies and vertebrate pallium. Cell 142(5): 800-809. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cell.2010.07.043