Sponsored Ad:
See the top rated post in this thread. Click here

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 20

Thread: Bullet Points in Academic Papers

  1. #1
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    35
    Rep Power
    5


    2 out of 3 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No

    Bullet Points in Academic Papers

    Sponsored Ad:
    I was recently writing a paper to present at a peer-reviewed conference and I was advised (not by reviewers, but by prof before submitting) to not include bullet points and to instead write lists as sentences. This seemed so antiquated to me. Bullet points are so wonderful! Oh, let me list the ways! They:
    • Promote Readability by drawing the readers attention and making it easier for them to quickly find your relevant points,

    • Reduce Reader Fatigue by breaking up text, and

    • Economize on key strokes by allowing you to avoid forming proper paragraphs.


    Why would we ever ignore such a handy literary technology? I know very little about publishing, so I'm hoping this is just my prof's bias and not a problem for the entire field of economics. Has anyone else had this experience or have an opinion on the subject?

    personal statement* IMO, not enough things are bolded or underlined for emphasis in academic journal articles. Why do we still write like it was 1950?
    Last edited by poser; 05-24-2011 at 10:55 PM.

  2. #2
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage Andronicus's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    718
    Rep Power
    11


    Good post? Yes | No
    I've seen bullet points (or more often numbered items) used in the formal statement of theorems with several results or that show equivalence between more than two conditions. I don't recall seeing them in exposition. I don't know why, except maybe it seems less formal (then again I guess that doesn't make much sense given the previously mentioned case when they are used).

  3. #3
    An Urch Guru Pundit Swami Sage
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Barcelona
    Posts
    526
    Rep Power
    8


    Good post? Yes | No
    I agree with poser. Bullet points indeed help clarify what an author wants to convey, and he should be interested in making his paper as clear as possible.

    However, there also exists a tendency towards standardization. The standard is popularized by leading journals and professors may (knowingly or unknowingly) follow it. We have seen examples when standards are not necessarily the most efficient ones (e.g. qwerty keyboard layout), and this might be another example.

  4. #4
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    20
    Rep Power
    4


    Good post? Yes | No
    The simple answer is editors of journals will almost never allow for bullet-points because they want to "save space". You can make bold, italic, etc... for all you like but everything must be concise both in terms of writing and the presentation. In any case, there's really not much need for bullet-points. All the important results of a paper can be found in the abstract, in the conclusion and in some parts of the introduction. Everyone knows how and where to find them after a while so there's no need to have bullet points to emphasize them. And most people only read the main body if they are really interested in the results and when they choose to do so, there's no need for bullet points in the main body to catch their attention as well.

  5. #5
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    35
    Rep Power
    5


    Good post? Yes | No
    convoluted,
    "saving space" seems like a rather weak argument in their defense. The cost of printing is a fraction of what it was 50 years ago (and reading printed journals is so 20th century anyways). Sure, you don't want an article to be 80 pages long, but there are enough very long papers out there (especially empirical papers) that I would suspect that "saving space" shouldn't be a primary concern.

    The rest of your argument seems to be a combination of the 2 points, but I'm not fully buying either.

    • "most people don't read articles that thoroughly anyways" - I think that only strengthens the argument for including bullet-points. They were essentially invented to allow busy readers to skim a document more quickly.
    • "the conventional structure of papers is so well known people know where to find what they're looking for" - I don't think the structure of papers is really as standardized as you think. Sure, you can always expect to find a few sections (abstract, etc). But after that it is kind of up in the air (or at least dependent on the journal you're submitting to). For example, in empirical papers, you will sometimes find a methods section. Other times, you will find the methods kind of mixed in with the results. This was something i noticed when i was trying to prepare my proceedings paper.

  6. #6
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    35
    Rep Power
    5


    Good post? Yes | No
    convoluted,

    Here's another way of thinking about my point. Your post seems to boil down to "bullet points aren't necessary", but shouldn't our undergraduate economics training make us suspicious of those sorts of arguments ("necessary" relative to what?)? We shouldn't be asking whether bullet points are "necessary", we should be asking the whether the benefits of using them out weigh the cost.

  7. #7
    The Adam Carolla of TM
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Posts
    1,410
    Rep Power
    11


    Good post? Yes | No
    If one submits a paper to a highly selective journal and your article features bullet points, then the likelihood of having it accepted is greatly diminished. Editors and referees prefer the antiquated conformity. And maximizing likelihood of getting published is the cost-benefit analysis that academic economists are concerned about; optimal presentation of their results is a secondary concern.

  8. #8
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    35
    Rep Power
    5


    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    OneArmed,

    From the perspective of an individual economist, you're right. But from the perspective of society I don't see how one could not believe that there are significant economic gains being foregone by clinging to writing standards developed before the word processor. And I don't see any cost to making the switch to better practices. This is literally cash in the street!

    If I had the time, I would write a paper on the game theoretics of how the careerist instincts of young economists leads them to adopt inferior standards that create a welfare loss to society, then I would publish it in the AER AND I would include bullet points and windings and animated gifs.

  9. #9
    Trying to make mom and pop proud
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    20
    Rep Power
    4


    4 out of 5 members found this post helpful. Good post? Yes | No
    Quote Originally Posted by poser View Post
    OneArmed,

    From the perspective of an individual economist, you're right. But from the perspective of society I don't see how one could not believe that there are significant economic gains being foregone by clinging to writing standards developed before the word processor. And I don't see any cost to making the switch to better practices. This is literally cash in the street!

    If I had the time, I would write a paper on the game theoretics of how the careerist instincts of young economists leads them to adopt inferior standards that create a welfare loss to society, then I would publish it in the AER AND I would include bullet points and windings and animated gifs.
    One of the most common feedback from editors when one submits a paper is to shorten it or take away certain parts. It has nothing to do with cost of printing; We just don't want papers to be longer than otherwise needed. That's why they always have some technical appendix left out and sort. I really don't think it is necessary to have bullet points (and if you like, relative to not having bullet points) in most cases. And my very little knowledge in game theory tells me that most academia agrees with me; If not, this would not have been sustainable as a stable equilibrium for so long.
    Based on my very humble experience in grad school thus far, we are usually interested in the "how" instead of the "what" of the paper. A paper can have a bullet-point saying (for example) "Below, I give an alternative method of identification with a conditional median restriction" but it does not add anything since it's the method that we are interested in. Beyond proper lemma, theorem or corollary, I just don't see any value-add in having bullet points in most cases. But then, it's just a personal experience and I may be just not smart enough to appreciate the beauty of bullet points.

    But whatever the case, I think this is a rather "silly" (no offence intended) topic to be arguing about. But then again, I may be too silly myself to appreciate the importance of this topic. Seeing how papers in the top 5 journals are so sophisticated (at least to me), I am not sure if I can ever have a publication there. It's a pity that you said you do not have the time to write the AER paper which sounds really interesting. I sincerely hope you will be able to find the time to write the AER paper soon and I looking forward to reading it (and hopefully be able to understand it too).

    Oh, and I'm not trying to formulate an argument against your points. I usually take ages to read an AER paper so it's understandable that my points will appear weak to you... I won't even begin trying to argue against it. Thus, I rest my case

  10. #10
    Eager!
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Posts
    35
    Rep Power
    5


    Good post? Yes | No
    And my very little knowledge in game theory tells me that most academia agrees with me; If not, this would not have been sustainable as a stable equilibrium for so long.
    two words: path dependence

    Based on my very humble experience in grad school thus far, we are usually interested in the "how" instead of the "what" of the paper.
    But if that were true, it really wouldn't matter how you presented your study so long as it conveys your results/methods etc well. But clearly, using particuarly styles of writing can cost you points with reviewers. So the way a paper is written does matter to some important folks.

    But whatever the case, I think this is a rather "silly" (no offence intended) topic to be arguing about.
    haha indeed. i was more or less just commenting on one frivolous aspect of academic culture. there are def bigger problems in the world than Luddite economists ignoring an amazing literary technology.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. I'll bite the bullet: Another prediction thread.
    By noa in forum PhD in Economics
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 12-20-2010, 09:53 AM
  2. Sniper's bullet
    By andy31 in forum GMAT Sentence Correction
    Replies: 6
    Last Post: 07-29-2008, 06:37 PM
  3. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 09-05-2007, 03:39 PM
  4. sniperís bullet
    By catchamogh in forum GMAT Sentence Correction
    Replies: 7
    Last Post: 04-14-2007, 11:15 AM
  5. sniper's bullet ..
    By aru4912 in forum GMAT Sentence Correction
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 02-26-2007, 10:06 AM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

SEO by vBSEO ©2010, Crawlability, Inc.