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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Academic Articles Suck

Okay, for those of you who do not know, I am finishing up my Masters Degree in English. As such, I am deeply immersed in an exit requirement writing academic papers. These papers have me looking through dozens of academic articles and I'm frankly annoyed by it all. Don't get me wrong, I respect the field, I respect the opinions of these article writers, but I feel that they are being overly verbose about their subjects.

I can appreciate being precise, but its ludicrous to spend half a page on a thesis statement that isn't very clear at all. Maybe if it was clearer I wouldn't get so angry, but having to read, and then reread an article just to see whether or not it is even relevant to my argument sucks. Especially considering that most article writers believe that a heavy handed vocabulary makes them seem smarter. This is especially infuriating when the article writer assumes that you have read the same sources they use, instead of being able to place the source within their own work. I know that I never would have gotten away with writing a paper in which I cited a source and said the equivalent of "well, you should have read this source if you are interested in my article, so I'm going to make some obscure reference to it, and you will have to read the source to get how it applies to my argument."

Which brings me to my next rant...the whole edifice of academia is a lie. A typical paper in any discipline, except maybe sciences that have experimentation as their subject, is based on rhetoric, referencing other works to gain credibility. These works, in turn, have referenced more credible works to gain credibility, and so on. It makes the equivalent of a google search spiral, where people wanting high google ratings would make dozens of blog sites that link to one another, and since google rates a page based on the rating of pages that link to it, the whole thing grows exponentially. Then all you need to do is link your real page to the farmed pages, and viola; instant high ranked page (though I think they've modified their crawlers since this scam was popular). Academia is no different, it is endless stacking of credibility on sources that are only credible because their sources are credible, which are credible because their sources in turn are credible. Eventually it goes back far enough that the "credible" sources are major players in academics...but they got there the same way, by being "credible" by association with former "credible" sources. It's all a pointless lie built upon a lie.

The point I'm trying to make is that, no matter how valid your opinion, if you cannot support it by the arbitrarily credible sources, then your opinion is invalidated by academia. It's a pointlessly stupid practice, and yet this is how our colleges are built. The only real knowledge seems to come from the sciences, and even those are spoiled by opinion and speculation (don't get me started on climate change and evolution, I know you don't have all day to read the wall of text that would ensue.)

Anyway, mostly bitching because I am tired of reading these articles...oh well, back to work.
-VG

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