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Are All Academic Papers Difficult to Read?

Updated May 23, 2024
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Few people would grab an academic research journal if they're looking for some light reading, but that doesn't mean the writers don't have a sense of humor.

Case in point: In 1974, Dennis Upper submitted an almost completely blank manuscript to the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis with the title "The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of 'Writer's Block.'" Upper, a staffer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Brockton, Massachusetts, might have had his tongue firmly in his cheek, but the journal proved it got the joke, publishing the mostly empty page in its Fall 1974 issue.

While the body of the article is blank -- the self-treatment for writer's block didn't work -- the bottom of the page includes a footnote to the title and a "Comments by Reviewer" section. The former explains that "Portions of this paper were not presented" at a psychological association convention, while in the latter, the reviewer explains that he "studied this manuscript very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays and (I) have not detected a single flaw in either design or writing style. I suggest it be published without revision." For the record, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis is a respected, peer-reviewed academic publication that has been in existence since 1968.

Staring at the blank page:

  • Dr. Seuss (Theodore Geisel) fought writer's block by going into a closet filled with hats and putting them on until he felt he could write again.

  • Toni Morrison said that while it took her three years to start writing Beloved, she wouldn't call it writer's block but a type of preparation that got her ready to write.

  • Sylvia Plath suffered years of writer's block until a collection of her poetry was published; she was then able to pen The Bell Jar in just over two months.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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