Characteristics of Academic Writing
First of all, I would like to thank Moritz and Sébastien for inviting me to share with you, on the occasion of this seminar, the reflections that I develop in my activity as a teacher and researcher in the field of education. University of Geneva.
I chose, as an introduction, a somewhat provocative title, at least likely to jostle some certainty that one could have in terms of research and scientific knowledge; What are we talking about when we talk about scientific writing? Does this genre exist? If, for example, from a certain point of view of physics or chemistry, the question can be quickly resolved, reference will be made to the scientific writing of numbers, in other words a number from 1 to 9, possibly followed by a comma, then the sign of multiplication, then a power of 10, for example the mass of the earth, 6.4 X 10 power 24.
In the field of social sciences / humanities, is the question more complex? The answer will differ according to the epistemological paradigm from which one builds one’s research approach. The dominant reference, to this day, remains the influence of positivism: in this perspective, the scientific text is considered as a transparent place for the fixation and transmission of adequate representations of the world that does not deserve, because of its transparency, a particular attention ; therefore, scientific writing does not need to be thought out, thought, or, therefore, taught. If we adopt this point of view, we can then answer yes, scientific writing exists, it is natural, transparent, objective ….
Examples of Academic Writing
As we have just seen, these quarrels, these research models, are crossed by power struggles and issues of power. We envision power in the perspective of Foucault, as summarized by Didier Fassin: “Power does not only repress; he makes exist. He produces as much as he forbids. The assignment that we endorse and reclaim on our behalf is the paradoxical condition of our capacity, to see our power to act. (Fassin, 2005, p.15) This point of view joins the epistemological foundations of the comprehensive approach.
If one refers to a constructivist / interpretative / comprehensive epistemology, the answer is no longer self-evident, the modes of production and reception of the scientific text become central in the analysis of the conditions of production of knowledge, the writing constitutes in the unavoidable medium of scientific knowledge, its transmission and therefore its validation but also, upstream, the medium of its construction. I will therefore focus, in my reflections, on the final aspect of this definition, namely writing as a process of building knowledge; to think of writing as a form of production of knowledge, in other words as a form of production of reality, and thus also as a form of production of the social.
Seeking to understand what riparians living in West African protected wildlife areas live on a daily basis rather than unquestionably endorsing the principles of governance and theorizing from these principles about peasants’ strategies by claiming to know what is good for them.
Emancipate from the utilitarian principle. Desire to think: (re) question the meaning of his research work and take the risk of marginality. Desire to think: swim against the current but thanks to it stay alive . Desire to think: to accept and face the conflict within oneself, in front of one’s peers, in front of the institutions. Desire to think: get out of the closet, make an “epistemological coming out” (Dayer, 2006).