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The Use of Positive Words in Political Science Language

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 April 2018

Nils B. Weidmann
University of Konstanz
Sabine Otto
Uppsala University
Lukas Kawerau
University of Konstanz


Political science takes pride in objective and methodologically rigorous research. This should be reflected in a clear and concise writing style that convinces readers by the content of the research, not by the language used to report about it. This article demonstrates that this is true but only to a limited extent. It shows that—similar to recent findings from natural-sciences research—the frequency of positive words that political scientists use to describe their research has increased markedly in recent decades. At the same time, however, the magnitude of this increase is much less pronounced. The article discusses and analyzes potential explanations for this trend. We suspect that it can be attributed at least partly to changing norms in the discipline, in which research framed in a positive way is more likely to be published.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

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