Archive for September, 2008

Tips for article-writing

I have to recommend this little tip sheet for those who wish to publish acacemic papers in the social sciences. I am one of them and often times I found myself facing a dilemma about how to position or frame an idea. If you agree that a paper usually tells a story – then it is an important decision to frame the story, as an idea could be told in a zillion different ways. Usually I have to choose between the “phenomena” and the “theory”. No matter what decision I make it risks losing one part of the audience as a result of the frame. Ezra Zuckerman calls the “row” (phenomena) and “column” (discipline or theory) problem and usually one cannot aim for both.

I tend to go with the “phenomena” approach when I write, because it is the social phenomena that interest me fundementally. I care less about theory – which is supposed to be the truth about how the world works. But usually we see researchers change their theories (often too quickly) to suit the phenomena and empirical evidences they study. I don’t think highly of that approach either. If theories are just means to “interpret” the empirical evidences, then they lose their most important function – to predict the unknown. In that case, we are not doing research any more – we are no more than investigative journlaists who cannot write as well but may have some fancy statistical skills.

So the “row and column” way of looking at article-writing is the central point he made in the tip sheet. As a consequence of the researcher’s decision to go with the “phenomena” or “theory”, other decisions follow. The whole list can be found here.


September 21, 2008 at 5:58 pm 5 comments

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