Reflecting on the use of persuasive communication devices in academic writing


If science seeks to bring us closer to truth, scientific communication should be characterized by a high level of transparency, precision, and sincerity. However, scientific communication also involves persuading the readership - including editors and reviewers - that one’s research is worthwhile (e.g., is innovative, strong, and consequential). The latter goal may imply the use of persuasive tools that are at risk of misleading readers and reviewers in their assessment of our research, which we believe should be avoided. In this document, we identify a list of such communication devices. We discuss and cluster them as a result of reflections made on our own writing style, as well as observations made in research articles by other authors. The items are organized along a tentative typology that may be reconsidered at a later stage. We focus on writing styles that apply to the presentation and interpretation of research findings, including data visualization, but generally excluding issues related to methods and statistical analyses. Our intention with this document is to recognize how difficult it is to effectively and accurately convey one’s data accurately, while at the same time encouraging self-reflection amongst authors (contributing researchers) as well as reviewers and editors on the use and potential misuse of persuasive communication devices in written scholarly reports, so that we as a global scholarly community can uphold highest possible standards to research rigor. We want to emphasize that we do not imply that authors use the below-described communication tools in order to purposefully occlude bad research. Yet, we find it useful to raise awareness on habits that may lead to misinterpretation of research results, both within and outside our scientific community.

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Brice Beffara
Brice Beffara
Lecturer-researcher in psychology and methods

My research interests include social psychology, biological psychology, and methods.