I have noticed an increasingly popular trend among authors to try to use different verbs when citing the literature upon which their work is based.  It is frequently the case that authors fail to connect with the research they purport to be synthesizing from.  Instead we are treated to a list of peremptory statements about what this person and that person said.  But the author notices that this is incredibly boring, with all the characteristics of a list of points, each from a different research paper.  It is important to tackle the very real problem of thinking about the theories and concepts that link these studies, and figuring out how each researcher has taken a theoretical stance of one kind or another. Instead of doing this, the author simply changes the verb for each paper being relied upon: Smith suggests…, Jones demonstrates…, Bloggs opines….  Opines!  Why?  Suddenly, the review of past research becomes a mere sharing of opinions.  Surely, there is a difference between an opinion and a piece of research?  The point here is that the papers I am reading use “opines” as an inappropriate  substitute for “says”, in the mistaken assumption that using different words for the same thing is somehow going to make the paper more interesting.  It isn’t.  If you are tempted to refer to someone else’s work as “opining”, please make sure that the author in question was merely trotting out an unsubstantiated opinion, and then question whether such opinions belong in a review of previous research!



About Will

Professor of Construction Management and Economics, University of Reading, UK. Editor-in-Chief, Construction Management and Economics (1992-2016). Programme Director, MSc Construction Management. School Director of Postgraduate Teaching Programmes.
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One Response to Opining

  1. janbro says:

    “Opines” is a real horror. I have to quote Wikipedia: “Opines are low molecular weight compounds found in plant crown gall tumors or hairy root tumors produced by parasitic bacteria of the genus Agrobacterium.” This should be an extra warning,

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