In popular culture, cutting edge research often makes its way into social discourse the same way as Justin Bieber’s latest gaffe or a delusional conspiracy theory might. News media continues to reduce story details to 7-second sound bites, and 90 second reports. Twitter reduces a thought to 140 characters. Today, I go to revise a research journal article to manuscript guidelines, and am limited to 3000 words.
3000 words to convey science has its ups and downs. I must think carefully about what to cut out. I must consider carefully whether to use a table or a chart. APA format takes me only so far, before I begin to question whether I am giving a complete picture of what I am trying to do. If you read my results without the implications, I’m heaping negativity on the video game industry. What will the news cycle do to my research? Journals can either kill or refine research.
The brief length of your average journal article, and the academic systems that seem to support journal publications over book writing and other research dissemination practices, seem to indicate an academic sector still doomed to the reductionism we’ve been decrying for decades.
On the other hand, a limited amount of space corresponds to the ability of people in the field to digest information in a useful way. It forces me to think about how I can represent something graphically instead. It forces me to prioritize what is most important. It causes me to think carefully about what I want people to take from the research. What will this look like when someone tries to reduce it to a 140 character tweet?
I hope it will look refined. Research is like a child that I want to raise with all the right values, but when I send it out into the world, it will reflect on me- I hope it behaves itself and gives birth to more good research!