Large-scale stylistic analysis of formality in academia and social media

Thin Nguyen, Svetha Venkatesh, Dinh Phung

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The dictum ‘publish or perish’ has influenced the way scientists present research results as to get published, including exaggeration and overstatement of research findings. This behavior emerges patterns of using language in academia. For example, recently it has been found that the proportion of positive words has risen in the content of scientific articles over the last 40 years, which probably shows the tendency in scientists to exaggerate and overstate their research results. The practice may deviate from impersonal and formal style of academic writing. In this study the degree of formality in scientific articles is investigated through a corpus of 14 million PubMed abstracts. Three aspects of stylistic features are explored: expressing emotional information, using first person pronouns to refer to the authors, and mixing English varieties. Trends of these stylistic features in scientific publications for the last four decades were discovered. A comparison on the emotional information with other online user-generated media, including online encyclopedias, web-logs, forums, and micro-blogs, was conducted. Advances in cluster computing are employed to process large scale data, with 5.8 terabytes and 3.6 billions of data points from all the media. The results suggest the potential of pattern recognition in data at scale.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWeb Information Systems Engineering – WISE 2016
Subtitle of host publication17th International Conference Shanghai, China, November 8–10, 2016 Proceedings, Part II
EditorsWojciech Cellary, Mohamed F. Mokbel, Jianmin Wang, Hua Wang, Rui Zhou, Yanchun Zhang
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9783319487434
ISBN (Print)9783319487427
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventInternational Conference on Web Information Systems Engineering 2016 - Shanghai, China
Duration: 8 Nov 201610 Nov 2016
Conference number: 17th (Proceedings)

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


ConferenceInternational Conference on Web Information Systems Engineering 2016
Abbreviated titleWISE 2016
Internet address


  • Academia
  • Apache Spark
  • Big data
  • Social media
  • Stylistic features

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