Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Gems in the methods section of scientific papers

Scientific research papers are usually not particularly riveting reading material. The Materials and Methods section is often the least appealing, easily skipped in pursuit of more enticing bits. But it is in the "M&M" (as scientists call it) that, hidden under dull jargon and cloaked in the passive voice, the jewels of original scientific research lie. Condensed beyond recognition into terse, matter-of-fact sentences are days, months, sometimes years of hard, enjoyable, or exhilarating (but often also mind-numbingly dull) labor, moments of despair and jubilation, false starts, near give-ups, luminous ideas, and innovative inventiveness. And not infrequently a generous helping of courage.
Menno Schilthuizen, Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds, and Beasts Tell Us About Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves (New York: Penguin Books, 2015), p.59

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