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January 6, 2014

Research Sounds a Lot More Interesting in Plain English

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One of the most memorable things I learned in journalism school is that when an editor asks about a story you’re working on, you should be able to sum it up in a single sentence. This isn’t always easy because the longer you’ve researched a topic, the more complicated it seems—but, well, too bad because your editor and reader are busy and they need to quickly decide whether to give you any more of their time.

It’s a lesson I think should apply to all writing but it’s one academics rarely heed. So often they seem incapable of summing up their work. That’s why I love this new Tumblr blog, LOL My Thesis, where graduate students submit plain English translations of their thesis topics. Obviously many of the entries are self-deprecating but they also show how graduate students really are capable of communicating their ideas in simple sentences the average person can read. If they did this more often, I bet we’d learn more from their research.

I mean, just try and figure out what any of these master’s theses topics funded by by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council is about and you’ll probably give up pretty quickly:

Semantic and concreteness model of metaphor comprehension (University of Windsor)

Reconnecting with historical reality: a revival of neglected theories of history and historical process in the criticism of Canadian historical fiction through a re-examination of researcher/historian characters (University of Ottawa)

Click here to read the rest of the blog post by Josh Dehaas in OnCampus


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