Research is Gross…But it Doesn’t Have to be…

Research papers. We’ve all had to read them. And, chances are, if you’re anything like me, you’ve dreaded it. Just the sound of hearing the phrase “research paper” brings a sense of disdain to my heart. The complexly worded long sentences that I really don’t have a clue about…gross. But, apart from an entire research paper, research can be essential in a piece of writing- especially when one is trying to prove a point about something. Utilizing efficient research can exponentially increase the legitimacy to a piece of work. The important thing is, though, how does one incorporate research in such a way that is tasteful and keeps the reader engaged?

Within  Douglas Emlen’s piece for The New York Times Magazine entitled “The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles”, Emlen is able to present research in an efficient manner. Having done background research on specific types of dung beetles, he is able to both enhance the reader’s scientific understanding behind these creatures while simultaneously evoking a sense of anticipation within the reader to continue on until the end.

Emlen does a great job at taking the research and making it more relatable through his word choice, specifically, how he phrases certain things. Emlen takes advantage of the fact that his piece is about beetles, and therefore utilizes personification. Personifying certain aspects of the beetles not only makes it relatable to the reader (a human) but also makes it minorly humorous.

Firstly, Emlen refers to their horns as “weapons” throughout the entire paper. Then, staying in tune with the ideas of weaponry, he refers to Charles Darwin’s process of evolution/natural selection, as an “arms race”. In replacing what was probably phrased scientifically in his research with common terms that personify the beetles, the reader doesn’t need to put as much thought behind what Emlen is trying to explain. It also made it slightly humorous, at least for me, because I then pictured in my head actual beetles with weapons fighting each other. I guess you just never know how your reader is going to digest your writing.