Prose and cons of scholarly articles: How readability tests expose poor knowledge mobilization in academic publications


  • Peter J. McDonald McMaster University
  • Philip Savage McMaster University


Current literature shows that poor and unclear writing is a significant barrier for non-academic audiences. Readability research is a growing interest among STEM and health science fields; however, the humanities and social science disciplines are neglected. To address this gap, articles from the humanities and social science disciplines were analyzed using the Flesch Reading Ease (FRE) and the Gunning FOG Index (GFI) readability tests. Results show that the FRE mean score for all analyzed articles is 29.04, and the total GFI mean score is 18.02, meaning they are extremely difficult to read and often require a post-secondary education for adequate comprehension. Empirically driven, quantitative articles had no significant difference in readability than sense-making, qualitive articles. Results also show that the humanities and social sciences have readability similar or equivalent to STEM and health science fields.                                                 

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