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Article Writing

Tips for academic article writing

Any aspiring academic will soon be faced with the question: how can I write an article that will be accepted for publication in a respected journal? How can article writing become easier for me? There is no magic formula for successful article writing, but there are a few guidelines that are worth following. When writing your article, think carefully about your intended audience. Obviously, if you are writing for an academic audience, they will have a certain degree of specialised knowledge: but the danger is to overestimate this expertise. You are writing an article about a topic you have researched intensely for years, so it is easy to lose perspective: a reader with expert general knowledge of your field will not necessarily find it intuitive to follow the thread of your particular argument. When you write your article, make sure you spell out in the clearest possible detail exactly what position you are defending and, just as importantly, which positions you are rejecting. It may help to get someone who isn’t an expert in the field to read your article once you have written it, and ask them to write their own summary of what you have written. Article writing can be mastered easily!

Article writing in modern academia

The focus of modern academia is no longer book writing, but article writing. Even before the end of their doctorates, there is constant pressure for academics to publish several articles a year. The reason for this is that writing articles is now necessary to get jobs: many academic employers demand a minimum number of recent publications in peer-reviewed journals, and, since many postdoc positions last no more than a few months, junior researchers will barely have started one job before they need to start thinking about the next – which means constant article writing in the hope that they can get enough publications. The pressure for publication in turn derives from the demand by the governments, who begrudgingly fund research institutions, that research must have measurable ‘impact’. Not only does this mean that it’s difficult to find time to write books before someone starts demanding proof of your research impact, it’s also hard to find time to write considered, worthwhile articles. Instead, there is a constant deluge of low-quality article writing by researchers desperate to get published and unable to wait until their work is ready. Is that really the ‘impact’ we want academia to have?

Two types of article writing in translation

Could article writing in translation soon be done by machines? In India, the National Translation Mission has recently launched a machine translation service to automatically translate texts in combinations such as Urdu to English. Meanwhile, the new Waygo app is just the latest of many computerised solutions for translation Chinese to English. But while these sorts of machine translations may serve as tools to get a rough idea of the content of a foreign-language text, anyone who has read about the errors made by Western tattoo artists who use Chinese symbols will know how badly translations can go wrong if done by non-experts. That’s why complex translations, such as article writing, require a professional translator with excellent judgement and creativity. Just one reason for this is because of another type of article writing: the two languages already mentioned, Urdu and Chinese, do not use definite and indefinite articles where English would require them. For article writing in English translated from one of these languages, the translator will therefore often need to be more specific than the original and decide which article to use: and no machine can do that.