Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

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Fishnut
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Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by Fishnut » Thu Apr 15, 2021 2:26 pm

New open access research published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B finds,
a significant negative relationship between the proportion of jargon words in the title and abstract and the number of citations a paper receives.
The researchers examined the jargon in titles and abstracts, and the resulting citations of 21,486 articles from the multidisciplinary field of cave research. They conclude that as researchers use titles and abstracts to filter which ones they will read fully, using off-putting jargon makes it more likely for a paper to join the "didn't read" pile. They also note that the shift to using internet search engines to find papers means that using specialised terms over straightforward ones limits their visibility,
A high frequency of specialized terms in the abstract and title of a given paper may further reduce its retrievability, insofar as it will less frequently appear in online searches. This is problematic because the better visibility a paper has in engine optimization search results, the more likely it is to attract readers and garner citations. This, in turn, makes the case for favouring accessible and widely searched words in the abstract, title and keywords.
I see a lot of sci-comms discussing the need to put things simply for "lay audiences" but rarely see the need to be accessible to peers, particularly in multidisciplinary fields (which is an increasing number of them).
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bob sterman
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by bob sterman » Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:32 pm

Sheeesh - you think they could have come up with a better title for their paper such as...

"Big words put people off reading stuff"

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Bird on a Fire
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:36 pm

Or possibly "more specialised articles receive fewer citations".
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bolo
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by bolo » Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:06 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:36 pm
Or possibly "more specialised articles receive fewer citations".
But it's about more specialized terminology, not more specialized articles, right?

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Bird on a Fire
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by Bird on a Fire » Fri Apr 16, 2021 7:35 am

bolo wrote:
Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:06 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 9:36 pm
Or possibly "more specialised articles receive fewer citations".
But it's about more specialized terminology, not more specialized articles, right?
Yes, but they don't seem to control for what the article is actually about.

An article on a more arcane topic will probably have more jargon in the title and abstract, and will generally receive fewer citations.

And that's as it should be. It's always annoying when you read an abstract that sounds very general and wide-reaching, then go through the hassle of trying to access the full text and have a read and it turns out it was actually a very limited specific thing that they've talked up for search-engine optimisation and citation-chasing.

It's hard to distinguish between necessary jargon (that accurately describes the content of the article) and unnecessary jargon (because the authors can't write well, or are trying to sound sciencey). But I'm probably being overly critical - the advice to write clearly and simply is good. I'm just a bit wary of the ongoing trend to dumb-down and hype-up studies in the abstract, which ought to be the place for explaining clearly what they did.
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by Holylol » Fri Apr 16, 2021 8:54 am

I am a bit ambivalent on that topic.
It's true that when you are doing a relatively broad brush bibliographic research on a topic, you can miss paper that are dedicated to a very specific part of a method because they haven't presented the wider context in the abstract/intro.
On the other hand, if you are looking for papers on that very specific part, it is easier to find them is the associated technical terms are in the title or abstract.

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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by IvanV » Mon May 17, 2021 12:32 pm

I've only just found Scrutable. I used to be on BadScience several years ago, I think under this username, though I don't recall exactly. I'll blame long Covid brain fog. It's nice to see all the old names.

I once read a book called "Bad Thoughts: A guide to clear thinking" by Jamie Whyte, a Kiwi who has had a very varied career. He made a very useful distinction between two concepts he named as follows (not standard usage, particularly unfortunately in this case):

Terminology - well-defined terms of clear and agreed meaning within a discipline
Jargon - vague, often pretencious, words without standardised agreed meanings, popular with an in-group, whose main function is to exclude outsiders and disguise vacuity

In most scientific subjects, maths, etc, terminology is necessary. We don't want to have to waste everyone's time with a glossary in every article, when anyone who could understand the article uses the same words in the same way. We don't want to define anatomical terms at the start of every medical paper, for example. And they are absolutely necessary to the precision of what you are reading.

The Sokal Hoax demonstrated that you could dress up complete rubbish with the fashionable pretencious jargon of the discipline, and it is so impenetrable that even journal editors would fail to spot you were taking the mickey.

The situation is not quite as black and white as Whyte tries to make it look. There's well-known terminology, and less well-known terminology which is less necessary, used only in a narrow area, and doesn't necessarily aid understanding and compactness. And there's well-known jargon, which isn't a problem provided you aren't making precise statements. But my guess is that what this is about is more towards the jargon than the terminology end of the spectrum, as Whyte defines them.

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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by Stephanie » Mon May 17, 2021 3:42 pm

IvanV wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 12:32 pm
I've only just found Scrutable. I used to be on BadScience several years ago, I think under this username, though I don't recall exactly. I'll blame long Covid brain fog. It's nice to see all the old names.

I once read a book called "Bad Thoughts: A guide to clear thinking" by Jamie Whyte, a Kiwi who has had a very varied career. He made a very useful distinction between two concepts he named as follows (not standard usage, particularly unfortunately in this case):

Terminology - well-defined terms of clear and agreed meaning within a discipline
Jargon - vague, often pretencious, words without standardised agreed meanings, popular with an in-group, whose main function is to exclude outsiders and disguise vacuity

In most scientific subjects, maths, etc, terminology is necessary. We don't want to have to waste everyone's time with a glossary in every article, when anyone who could understand the article uses the same words in the same way. We don't want to define anatomical terms at the start of every medical paper, for example. And they are absolutely necessary to the precision of what you are reading.

The Sokal Hoax demonstrated that you could dress up complete rubbish with the fashionable pretencious jargon of the discipline, and it is so impenetrable that even journal editors would fail to spot you were taking the mickey.

The situation is not quite as black and white as Whyte tries to make it look. There's well-known terminology, and less well-known terminology which is less necessary, used only in a narrow area, and doesn't necessarily aid understanding and compactness. And there's well-known jargon, which isn't a problem provided you aren't making precise statements. But my guess is that what this is about is more towards the jargon than the terminology end of the spectrum, as Whyte defines them.
Welcome to the forum, Ivan - good to have you back with us :)
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by jdc » Mon May 17, 2021 7:10 pm

IvanV wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 12:32 pm
I've only just found Scrutable. I used to be on BadScience several years ago, I think under this username, though I don't recall exactly.
I do. You were Firstname Surname on badscience.

hth

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nekomatic
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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by nekomatic » Mon May 17, 2021 8:15 pm

I had been thinking we could do with more forum members like that Ivan chap who used to hang out on Bad Science. Welcome back!

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Re: Specialized terminology reduces the number of citations to scientific papers

Post by jimbob » Tue May 18, 2021 7:15 am

IvanV wrote:
Mon May 17, 2021 12:32 pm
I've only just found Scrutable. I used to be on BadScience several years ago, I think under this username, though I don't recall exactly. I'll blame long Covid brain fog. It's nice to see all the old names.

I once read a book called "Bad Thoughts: A guide to clear thinking" by Jamie Whyte, a Kiwi who has had a very varied career. He made a very useful distinction between two concepts he named as follows (not standard usage, particularly unfortunately in this case):

Terminology - well-defined terms of clear and agreed meaning within a discipline
Jargon - vague, often pretencious, words without standardised agreed meanings, popular with an in-group, whose main function is to exclude outsiders and disguise vacuity

In most scientific subjects, maths, etc, terminology is necessary. We don't want to have to waste everyone's time with a glossary in every article, when anyone who could understand the article uses the same words in the same way. We don't want to define anatomical terms at the start of every medical paper, for example. And they are absolutely necessary to the precision of what you are reading.

The Sokal Hoax demonstrated that you could dress up complete rubbish with the fashionable pretencious jargon of the discipline, and it is so impenetrable that even journal editors would fail to spot you were taking the mickey.

The situation is not quite as black and white as Whyte tries to make it look. There's well-known terminology, and less well-known terminology which is less necessary, used only in a narrow area, and doesn't necessarily aid understanding and compactness. And there's well-known jargon, which isn't a problem provided you aren't making precise statements. But my guess is that what this is about is more towards the jargon than the terminology end of the spectrum, as Whyte defines them.
I recognised your writing style. welcome back
Have you considered stupidity as an explanation

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