Why Lazy Academics Write Better Papers
When it comes to research, laziness is universally frowned upon because as researchers, we’re expected to always go the extra mile. Always do that little more to make your research better, more robust, stronger.
But, when it comes to writing papers, being lazy is actually a good thing.
I stumbled upon this fact when I started becoming lazy when writing my own papers.
When I first started writing papers, I was incredibly enthusiastic and wanted to write them well. The problem was that my enthusiasm resulted in valuing things that most people didn’t really value. I thought everything I had done in my research was important and needed to be included. It wasn’t.
As a general rule, however much you value something in your research, everyone else will value it far less. That means those things you think that are struggling towards becoming important should still be included anyway because they’re close to being important! But, they shouldn’t really be included because if you think their borderline important, then everyone else is going to think they’re unimportant and pointless.
It’s natural for us to feel this way about our own research. Much of the importance we place on our own research doesn’t come from the actual value of it but from the time and effort we’ve put into it. As such, we want to put it on display. The thing is that, most other people don’t really care about our hard work. They just care about our findings.
We read papers to get information, not to know how hard it was to get this information.
When I was first writing papers, everything was important to me, the time of day I was doing my research, the music I was listening to, the snacks I was eating while doing it. Sure, all of those things were, and still are, important for me! But they don’t mean anything to anyone else, so it’s best to leave them out. Along with these deceptively unimportant facts, there are many other facts that are equally unimportant but still make their way into our papers!
For example, I read a paper the other day that was 17 pages long. The problem was that it should’ve really only been about 7 pages. The authors were just too excited and not nearly lazy enough! They even somehow worked a reference to Ancient Egypt into their paper – their topic had nothing to do with Ancient Egypt. The only commonality was that there were people doing science in Ancient Egypt and there are also people doing science in the modern day.
A lazy researcher would never had put that in because that’s too much work.
Lazy researchers only ever put in the bare minimum. The great thing is that the bare minimum coincides with what everyone else thinks is important as well – it cuts out the stuff we think is important simply because of the work we put in.
Once I started becoming a lazy writer, it became far easier to get my papers published. Before I started becoming lazy, I would routinely have to sent my paper around to three or four journals before one finally accepted it. Once I became lazy though, it was uncommon for me to have to try more than two before getting accepted. Why? Because my paper only contained the important stuff and all of the superfluous stuff was left out. That made my paper much more succinct and it more effectively communicated my research to the reader.
The better you communicate your research to the reader, the more they’ll understand and the more likely they will be to cite your paper too!
In fact, this technique of being lazy isn’t just limited to writing journal papers. I used this technique to write this blog post as well.
Instead of writing something that would take 15 minutes to read, I wrote something that takes only 5 minutes to read. I cut out all of the junk and saved myself some time and work. I then got myself a popsicle, ate it, and returned to finish this last part. Now I have saved about 55 minutes, which I can spend on something else I like, AND I have a more succinct blog post now – win-win!
When it comes to writing academic papers, remember that, “lazy” equals “succinct”. “Succinct” equals “good”.
Make writing papers easier for yourself here:
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