The 8th point of discussion in our 17 Views of Research is as under:
Research involves a lot of jargon.
To explain what jargon is, I had another little exercise sheet with me. This sheet contained abstracts of three research articles. I chose these three abstracts with a specific reason in mind. The first abstract (which is not an abstract per se, but the opening paragraph of the article) is from Current Science. As the name indicates, the journal publishes results from all disciplines in science. The USP for choosing this ‘abstract’ was that it contained terms (protein content, total N, colorimetry, near infrared reflectance spectroscopy) that a Chemistry student could definitely make sense of. The second abstract is from Journal of Physical Chemistry B. But this particular research pertains to Monte Carlo Simulations, which is a rather rarefied domain in Chemistry research. The third abstract is from a Mathematical journal, and was chosen for a non-Chemistry point of view, while not being completely divorced from Science.
The idea was to present this exercise sheet to the students, have them read the abstracts and write a very brief note on what they understood in there. But the way it turned out in class was that I ended up reading the abstracts to them, and the students then came up with their verbal impressions of the abstracts.
In their attempts to verbalise the abstract content, the students were in essence simplifying the technical discipline-specific terms into everyday language. With a little help from me on what Monte Carlo Simulations entailed, the students could un-jargonise the second abstract as well.
We didn’t have much success with un-jargonising the third abstract, except for getting a general idea of what the research was about. This was precisely my intention to enable them to understand that jargon is discipline-specific.
The Exercise Sheet used in class can be downloaded here: jargon – abstract