On Paper-Writing Crutches (and What They Really Mean)

7 minutes read

It’s been pouring with rain, and in anticipation of the eventual deluge of make-up classes and rushed lectures, I’ve been trying to get some papers done. Some of them I enjoyed writing, some… not so much. I’m sure all of us have experienced writing papers on an empty brain; I know when I run out of golden ideas, backed up by fact and masterfully interwoven in a mesh of logic, I resort to using certain crutches.

I’ve found that these paper-writing crutches are quite universal, which is why I’ve identified five common paper-writing crutches, and what they really mean. Let’s move on to the first one.

1 - My personal opinion is unassailable.

Sometimes you have a strong feeling about something, but can’t seem to find any evidence to prove it. Luckily, there is an easy way to write something down without fear of reprisal: brand it as your own opinion. Everyone knows that people are entitled to their own opinions, and thus, no proof or substantiation is required.

For example: “In my opinion, carrot violence by children is significantly affected by Bugs Bunny’s viewership rate.” actually means: “I really believe that Bugs Bunny is a violent cartoon, but the data doesn’t really support it (or doesn’t really exist).

If you can’t make something an opinion because it has an categorical yes or no answer, then you can resort to the second tactic, which is to retort dismissively that…

2 - It’s obvious! I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining why or how!

In Physics lab where we had to find the latent heat of water, we just kept trying and trying until we got the result that we needed (because the mark depended on the margin of error). In a paper, however, you can just feign knowledge of that apparently obvious reason as to why this means that.

For example: “It is obvious that this utility function exhibits decreasing absolute risk aversion.” actually means: “I forgot how to compute the measure of absolute risk aversion.”

But what if you find a source that supports your conclusion and explains why? And what if, suddenly, in the mess of windows, widgets, and thingamabobs on your desktop, you can’t find it anymore? Well, you can level up to the higher form of crutch (although not much higher) called…

3 - Where was that citation again? Oh, screw it.

Citation management is one the most tedious but critical administrative tasks involved when writing a paper. Sometimes, you find yourself forgetting where the supporting article is. Why bother pointing to the specific articles when you can refer to the entirety of man’s work as a gigantic blob of literature? This is also applicable when the article has no date or is otherwise shady-looking.

For example: “It has long been known in the literature that empirical testing on the Environmental Kuznets Curve is weak and inconclusive.” actually means: “I found it, just trust me; I found it.”

You’re on the last throngs of meaningful, conscious, thought, and there is just one last bit of page before you hit that page requirement. Now is the perfect time to resort to the crutch of…

4 - So many words, so little meaning.

This is commonly done when the professor is suspected of not reading the papers anyway and simply grading on length. The usual meaningless fillers like “actually” or substituting in meaningless synonyms usually take center stage here. It’s quite self-explanatory, actually:

For example: “There has been a general consensus or agreement in the scientific literature that corporate governance, or the way a company structures its processes to govern themselves, actually provides the company with the ability to be able to better insulate or protect themselves and their company’s value against large negative shocks, or negative returns in the market return, better than those with poor governance or those who do not invest in corporate governance measures.” actually means: “People agree that corporate governance reduces sensitivity to market risk. You won’t really read this part, anyway, so why not take the opportunity to fill in some more lines?”

Lastly, when our heart really isn’t in the paper writing, we tend to only write what we think the professor wants to see, feigning that…

5 - I am the great reflector/realizer!

People usually expect that reflection or reaction papers need to contain life-changing, mind-blowing realizations or reactions that will significantly impact your entire being and existence from your psyche to your nosehair. So, we resort to this crutch:

For example: “I realized that I must dedicate my life to protecting and reviving the environment, and I should go to the woods and live out my life with as little a carbon footprint as possible.” actually means: “The minute I submit this paper, I will forget all realizations, go to my smoke-belching car, and start throwing trash indiscriminately.”

So there you go, five common paper-writing crutches for which I am sure to be guilty many times in my life. Hope you enjoyed reading. Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed reading this post or otherwise found it interesting, I’d appreciate it if you liked, shared, tweeted, or +1’d it on your preferred social network.

Share your Thoughts