Friday, October 26, 2012

Research or Restate? An “Official” Look at a Research Results Article

Research or Restate? An “Official” Look at a Research Results Article

In light of the recent Jennifer Livingston fiasco I found an article related to bullying. It is titled “Bullying and Suicide: Detection and Prevention”. Though I found it online, it was originally published in 2011 in a journal called The Psychiatric Times. After a little research I found they have an extensive member’s only website in addition to the journal. In 2011 bullying was taking center stage in the media after the suicides of many teens as a result of bullying and the introduction of cyber-bullying. The breadth of cyber-bullying was beginning to be more fully understood as more and more reports flooded in. As Jennifer Livingston and the article pointed out, “bullying has become a major public health problem in the Western world” (Klomek et al., 2011). However, the article being written at a grade level of 15.0 was not meant for the general population to read.

                Since the article was written for a journal called The Psychiatric Times it is easy to speculate that its readership is fairly narrow. The main audience would be doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and other health care professionals. With the access to the internet some schools or parents may also want to read it. The article was authored by Anat Brunstein Klomek, PhD, Andre Sourander, MD and Madelyn S. Gould, PhD, MPH. In all consideration that it is a report done on a study, I assumed its reading level would be higher than 15.0. However, the authors kept the jargon light and kept the article mainly to the results of the study, rather than elaborating on causes. With this being said the information was very redundant. This six page article could have been summed up in a much shorter frame. Granted, that is official style for you. The sentence structure was very repetitive as well. This is among one of many reasons I felt that the official style was not all that effective in this piece.

                “The association between bullying behavior at age 8 years and later suicide attempts and completed suicides varied by sex. Among boys, bullying behavior at age 8 years was not associated with later suicide attempts and completed suicides, after controlling for both childhood conduct and depression symptoms. Frequent victimization among girls at age 8 years, however, was associated with later suicide attempts and completed suicides, even after controlling for childhood conduct and depression symptoms. These findings indicate that suicidal behavior among boys who frequently bully others may be a function of psychopathology rather than of the bullying behavior per se.”

                The most monotonous part of the article was the word choice. While I understand that the authors stayed true to the topic of the paper, the sentences offered very little variety. Even in the paragraph above the words bullying and suicide were used eleven times. While in the true nature of official style the sentences are long winded, they lack a verbose quality that makes them a bad combination of lengthy and dull. The sentence structure was varied at times, but overall not enough to keep things interesting. The article’s readability score came to 28.8 with a SMOG index of 12.5. These statistics are not overwhelmingly high, but the characters per word came back at 5.6 which are higher than I would have expected. The words per sentence averaged out to be 18.8; a bit short for official style, but longer than the average Joe sentence. Overall, it seems that the authors are attempting to be plain in their speech, but still writing in a way that is partially into official style. With the article being scientific in nature the authors would have been better off writing more plainly. The other option would have been to make the piece more official style. Either option would have been fine as long as they stuck to one specific type of writing rather than this in between area.

                With the writing as is, the article functions only partially within the assumed activity system. Given the presumed audience of the article, the authors failed to write in a way that would best benefit their readers. The authors wrote that they had written previous work on the topic. While this may add to their credibility it made me wonder why they were writing the article in the first place. The most likely answers would be that they wanted to inform the public or their colleagues about their research and findings, that they wanted to raise awareness about this particular problem, or that they were asked to do a write up on their research. However, I had to wonder if they were only writing the article to benefit themselves. By putting out more current research or by simply writing another article they would get more recognition in their field. What led me to believe this is the fact that the article had little new information throughout it and it cited many other similar studies on the same topic. Why bother writing an article that has little novel findings and merely regurgitates other studies? While it is not stated outright in the article, it could be an underlying drive. Also, the article does not fit the norm for scientific articles. Normally, articles such as this are much more in depth, filled with scientific jargon, and include much more detail and statistics. The piece did not measure up the norm. The authors were describing the results of an experiment they did, while failing to explain the procedure. The readers would have no clue as to how things were measured, over what time period, and the general demographics of the group being studied. This conflicts with the layout of most all scientific articles.

                With their implied audience being generally that of highly educated medical professionals they do not use the type of language I would normally expect. The lack of jargon makes this piece not fit within its given activity system. Without technical jargon the piece does not speak to its audience on a level that would be the most helpful for them. By failing to use appropriate jargon the article is not detailed enough to give the readers the information they really need. In addition to jargon they lack any real data to support their claims. Their claims that any type of suicidal ideation or depression has increased due to any type of bullying is not backed up by actual data. They do not indicate any numbers, statistics, or other information to back up their claims. Considering it is a paper written to state their research findings they do not live up to the norms of a research paper.

                All of this completely violates the activity system the document should be functioning in. The article is not functioning as a normal scientific paper should. It does not serve its audience as it should. The paper does not serve its community as it should since it does not actually give any information valuable to its readers. The intentions of the paper were not fulfilled unless the authors planned to just write something to publish an article for attention or to further their professional careers. Even the title of the article is not particularly true to the content. The title of Bullying and Suicide: Detention and Prevention. There is no real information on detection or prevention of bullying or suicide. The title is misleading to readers who want that type of information since there is not really any information on detection or prevention.       

                Overall, while the article used the official style it did not use it in an effective way. The lack of jargon and real information makes this piece not function as it is intended to. The repetitive nature of the word choice and sentences made the article boring and much longer than necessary. If they had any information that could validate their claims it would have made the article more valuable and credible. The authors should really think about what they are going to write before they write a report just for kicks.
-Kirsten Olson

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