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“Art Enhances Function”: At Look at Funny Research Papers

2 OCT 2014
Career Path : Education News

A look at funny research papers

With an article titled “It’s No Joke: Humor Rarely Welcome in Research Write-Ups”, The Chronicle has brought to light an issue all those in higher education have struggled to overlook—boring research papers. We don’t like to admit it, but we are not only forced to read dry and dense material, but as a product of our research, we write them ourselves. Mr. Heard, a New Brunswick professor, relates to this issue through his own experience of having a small joke in his research paper criticized by reviewers.

Science is a profession which is taken very seriously in today’s academics, and as a result, scientists are writing very factual and serious papers (perhaps so their content is more highly regarded). Mr. Heard acknowledges that decades ago, this was not the case. He argues that it is easier to convince a reader of your research when they can actually understand what you are saying.

“Art enhances function”—what does this mean exactly? It’s that readers are more likely to read a paper which guarantees enjoyment, and more likely to recommend it to colleagues. To Mr. Heard, putting a bit of creativity into a paper does not make it less serious, but rather shows the confidence of the writer, that they know enough about the subject to relate jokes to the material.

The truth is that not every scientist and researcher is a necessarily good (read: engaging) writer. While focusing on just delivering the data in a professional and coherent way might be the extent to some people’s capacity, others with a more creative flare may choose to incorporate small jokes or humorous asides which help lighten the tone of the piece and make it ultimately more enjoyable to read.

For your amusement, here are some interesting and humorous research papers which have actually been published as science:

And of course, the now classic A Stress Analysis of a Strapless Evening Gown: Essays for a Scientific Age, a collection of humorous scientific essay by Robert A. Baker.

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