In our statistical communication class right this moment, we had been speaking about writing. At one level, a scholar requested why journal articles had been all written the identical method. I mentioned: No, truly there are numerous alternative ways to jot down an article in a scientific journal. On the floor, these articles all look the identical: title, summary, introduction, strategies, outcomes, dialogue or some model of that, however if you happen to look intimately you will notice that you’ve got a number of flexibility in methods to proceed (aside from articles in medical journals like JAMA which even have a reasonably inflexible format).
The following step was to display this level by consulting a latest scientific article. I requested the scholars to decide on a newspaper. Somebody steered the NBER. So I googled NBER and went to its house web page:
I then clicked on the newest analysis paper, listed on the primary web page below the title “Employer Violations of Minimal Wage Legal guidelines.” Click on on the hyperlink and also you get this text with a extra dramatic title:
Does wage theft differ by demographic group? Proof of minimal wage will increase
with this abstract:
Utilizing information from the Present Inhabitants Survey, we assess whether or not and to what extent the burden of wage theft – wage funds under the authorized minimal wage – falls disproportionately on varied demographic teams following will increase of the minimal wage. For many racial and ethnic teams and in any respect ages, we discover that underpayment will increase equally as a fraction of wage positive factors realized following minimal wage will increase. We additionally current proof that the burden of underpayment falls disproportionately on comparatively younger African American staff and that underpayment will increase extra for Hispanic staff among the many working-age inhabitants.
Actually, we by no means had entry to the total article (however be happy to click on the hyperlink and browse it your self). There was sufficient content material within the title and abstract to gas a category dialogue.
Earlier than persevering with. . .
As a category, we mentioned the title and summary of the article above and brainstormed methods to enhance it. This doesn’t imply that we expect the article, or its title, or its summary, is unhealthy. Nearly all the things will be improved! Criticism is a vital step within the enchancment course of.
“Does wage theft differ by demographic group? Proof of Minimal Wage Will increase.” . . not unhealthy! “Wage theft,” within the first sentence, is dramatic: it instantly grabs our consideration. And the second sentence can be good: it brings “Proof” to the forefront and it additionally tells you the place the identification comes from. So, good job. We’ll speak later about how we may do even higher, however I like what they’ve executed to date.
Simply two issues.
First, the reply to the query “Does X differ with Y?” » is at all times sure. At the least, in social sciences, it is at all times sure. There’s no actual zeros. So it will be higher to exchange that first sentence with one thing like “How does wage theft differ by demographic group?” »
The second factor is the time period “wage theft.” I took this as a leftist signifier, in the identical method that utilizing a loaded time period like “pro-choice” or “pro-life” expresses the speaker’s place on abortion. So I took using this phrase within the title as a sign that the article was taking a stance on the political/financial left. However then I Googled the primary creator, and . . . he’s an “Assistant Senior Fellow on the Hoover Establishment”. Not that everybody at Hoover is right-wing, however it’s not a spot I affiliate with the left both. So I’ll transfer on and never fear about this downside.
The purpose right here is not that I attempt to monitor the ideology of the financial newspapers. That is an article on methods to write a scientific article! What I imply is that the title conveys info, each straight and not directly. The time period “wage theft” within the title signifies that the paper’s topic shall be morally severe – they’re speaking about “theft”, not just a few technical violations of a legislation -; it additionally has this political connotation. While you title your articles, concentrate on the direct and oblique messages you convey.
As I mentioned, I favored the title of the article: it’s punchy and clear. The abstract is one other story. I learn it and realized I hadn’t absorbed any of its content material, so I reread it, and it was nonetheless complicated. This isn’t “phrase salad” – there’s content material on this abstract –; it is simply organized in a method that I had hassle following. The scholars within the class had the identical impression, and certainly, they had been fairly relieved that I too discovered this complicated.
Tips on how to rewrite? The very best method can be to get into the primary article, maybe beginning with our tactic of forming a abstract by taking the primary sentence of every of the primary 5 paragraphs. However right here, we’ll maintain issues easy and persist with the data within the present abstract. Our purpose is to rewrite in a method that makes studying much less exhausting.
Our technique: first disassemble the abstract, then reassemble it.
I went to the board and listed the data within the abstract:
– CPS information
– Definition of wage theft
– What occurs after the minimal wage improve
– Inhabitants of working age
– African American, Hispanic, White
Now how will we put all of it collectively? My first thought was to start out with the definition of wage theft, however then I checked on-line and realized that the phrase used within the abstract, “funds of wages under the authorized minimal wage,” was not the definition of wage theft; it’s truly only one sort of wage theft amongst others. So it wasn’t going to work. Then there’s the summary half, “falls disproportionately throughout numerous demographic teams” – that is fairly pointless, as a result of what we need to know is Or this disproportionate burden is lowering, and by how a lot.
Put all of it collectively
We mentioned it some extra – it took a surprisingly very long time, perhaps 20 minutes of sophistication to work by all these points – after which I got here up with this new title/abstract:
Wage theft! Proof of minimal wage will increase
Utilizing information from the Present Inhabitants Survey (years) in durations following the minimal wage improve, we look at the proportion of staff paid lower than the authorized minimal, evaluating completely different age and ethnic teams . This proportion was highest throughout **age and **ethnic teams.
OK, how is that this completely different from the unique?
1. The three key factors within the doc are “wage theft,” “the proof,” and “minimal wage will increase,” in order that’s now what’s within the title.
2. It’s good to know that the info comes from the Present Inhabitants Survey. We additionally need to know when this all occurred, so we added the years to the abstract. We additionally mounted the tense change within the abstract from current to previousas a result of the research is fully based mostly on previous information.
3. The lethal phrase “wage theft” is already within the title, so we don’t want it within the abstract. This helps, as a result of we are able to then use the authors’ clear and descriptive phrase, “the proportion of staff paid lower than the authorized minimal”, with out having to misleadingly suggest that that is the definition of cash theft. wage, and with out having to mournfully declare that that is some sort of wage theft. It was so easy!
4. We merely say that we examine completely different age teams and ethnic teams after which report the outcomes. To me, that is a lot clearer than the unique abstract which shared this info in three lengthy sentences, with fairly a little bit of repetition.
5. Now we have the ** within the final sentence as a result of I do not fairly perceive from the abstract what the takeaways are. The model we created is brief sufficient that we are able to add extra numbers to that final sentence, or cut up it into two clear sentences, for instance one sentence about age teams and one about ethnic teams.
In any case, I believe this new model is far more readable. It is a construction significantly better suited to conveying not solely the final temper of the paper (wage theft, inequality, minority teams), but in addition the particular findings.
Classes for Rewriters
Nearly all writers are rewriters. So these classes are vital.
We had been capable of enhance the title and abstract, however it wasn’t simple and it wasn’t algorithmic both: there have been no easy steps to observe. We gave ourselves the comparatively easy job of rewriting with out the burden of topic information, and it nonetheless took us half an hour of labor.
After some writing ideas, it is tempting to suppose that rewriting principally boils down to a couple clear steps: changing the passive voice with the energetic voice, eradicating empty phrases and phrases comparable to “fairly” and “notice this”, examine the grammar. , retaining sentences brief, and so forth. On this case, no. On this case, we would have liked to dig somewhat deeper and achieve some conceptual understanding to know what to say.
The outcomes are however optimistic. You are able to do it too, to your personal papers!