Language may be the giveaway to fake research


iStock

Jordan Pearson has a piece on Motherboard about how that writing style may be an indicator of fraudulent scientific research.

According to a study by researchers at Cornell University, published in PLOS One earlier this year, flowery language may actually be the best way to tell if a study is complete bulls**t.

David Markowitz, a PhD candidate at Cornell’s Department of Communication, and his colleague Jeffrey Hancock analyzed the linguistic patterns of legit and fraudulent papers first-authored by disgraced Dutch professor of social psychology Diederik Stapel to find out if changes in how he employed language correlated with his deceit.

Stapel authored over 120 papers throughout his career on tantalizing media-bait topics like the social dynamics of selfishness and stereotyping. In 2011, he was found guilty of scientific fraud due to basing his studies on fabricated data. Subsequent investigations found that 55 of his published papers were total bunk—and it appears he left a trail of clues in the language he chose.

They found that, apart from using more adjectives than usual, Stapel also overused scientific jargon, perhaps in a hope of bewildering his readers.

The conclusion?

Liars have trouble approximating the proper amount of genre-specific terms to use in their writing.

  1. http://motherboard.vice.com/read/uncovering-fraudulent-research-could-be-as-easy-as-looking-at-language
  2. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0105937
Latest Stories
MoreMore Articles