Wednesday, 7 March 2012

More on academic writing - Restoration bloggers?

Two recent conversations inspired this entry.  In one, Liz Chapman (who's previously blogged here on the nature of facts and the Warburg Institute) referred to an article which dealt with the problem of assessing the impact of academic literature by considering citations in a range of documents, including blogs.  In the other, I was discussing Paula Goodale's recent blog entry with her and she commented on the value of blogs to research. It's something that's been touched on previously in one of Angharad's contributions to this blog. 

One of the things that was not mentioned in Angharad's entry on blogs was the informality of the language.  The relative freedom afforded by blogs allows ideas and thoughts to be presented without having to frame them according to the strictures associated with academic literature.  However, I often wonder just when, how and why academic literature became subject to so much restraint.  One of the many delights of the Internet is that it provides the opportunity to read documents that, a few years ago, would have been accesible only to hard-core archive addicts.  Amongst these documents are early copies of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

I've reproduced two entries from the first issue.  Apart from showing the breadth of interest of Robert Boyle (best known to GCSE students for his laws relating to pressure of gasses), they are also notable for the nature of their writing.  They read far more like 17th Century blog entries than modern academic articles.

An Account of a Very Odd Monstrous Calf, by Robert Boyle Phil. Trans. 1665 1:10
By the same Noble person was lately communicated to the Royal Society an Account of a very Odd Monstrous Birth, produced at Limmington in Hampshire, where a Butcher, having caused a Cow (which cast her Calf the year before) to be covered, that she might the sooner be fatted, killed her when fat, and opening the Womb, which he found heavy to admiration, saw in it a Calf, which had begun to have hair, whose hinder Leggs had no Joynts, and whose Tongue was, Cerberus-like, triple, to each side of his Mouth one, and one in the midst Between the Fore-leggs and the Hinder-leggs was a great Stone, on which the Calf rid: The Sternum, or that part of the Breast, where the Ribs lye, was also perfect Stone; and the outside of the Stone was of Grenish colour, but some small parts being broken off, it appeared a perfect Free-stone  The Stone, according to the Letter of Mr. David Thomas, who sent this Account to Mr. Boyle, is with Doctore Haughteyn of Salisbury, to whom he also referreth for further Information.

Upon the strictest inquiry, I find by one, that saw the Monstrous Calf and stone, within four hours after it was cut out of the Cows belly, that the Breast of the Calf was not stoney (as I wrote) but that the skin of the Breast and between the Legs and of the Neck (which parts lay on the smaller end of the stone) was very much thicker, then on any other part, and that the Feet of the Calf were so parted as to be like the Claws of a Dog.  The stone I have since seen; it is bigger at one end then the other; of no plain Superficies, but full of little cavities.  The stone, when broken, is full of small pebble stones of an Ovall figure: its colour is gray like free-stone, but intermixt with veins of yellow nad black.  A part of it I have begg’d of Dr. Haughten for you, which I have sent to Oxford, whither a more exact account will be conveyed by the same person.


  1. My cousin recommended this blog and she was totally right keep up the fantastic work!

    Academic writing

  2. Thanks for the kind words Yadhav.

  3. Very interesting article about academic writing i really much appreciated this thanks for shearing with us.