Comparative Commentary (Science Texts)    The texts, What is science? by Robert L. Park (published in 2001) and Pass It On...
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Comparative commentary (science texts)

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Comparative commentary (science texts)

  1. 1. Comparative Commentary (Science Texts) The texts, What is science? by Robert L. Park (published in 2001) and Pass It On: Spread Physics Awareness in 2005 from a journal called Physics Today (published in2004), have similarities and differences in their themes and the ways their authors create these themes. What is Science is an extract from Park’s essay. Hence the title, it isfocused on science, its role in human life, how humans interpret science and the evolution of science relative to the evolution of humans. Pass It On is an informative newsarticle about a specific part of science, physics, and hence the title, it is talking about a special year in human history. The similarity in the themes is that they both talkingabout science or a part of science. The difference is related to their purposes: while What is Science is an analyzing the concept of science, Pass It On is informing thereader about an event. The authors of both texts present their themes with similar or different uses of point of view, structure, and language. First of all, the point of view is different in both texts. What Is Science is written in 1st person point of view while Pass It On is written in 3rd person point of view. Thedifference in points of view affects the tone, and how the author presents the theme. In What is Science, the narrator uses words such as “we”, “us”, “you” to bring out the 1stperson point of view. An interesting detail is that he never uses “I”. By doing this, the narrator shows that he is not alone with his views. Therefore, the text becomes morepersuasive. This is how the author presents his theme; through persuasive writing, he is trying to convince the reader that science reveals the truth about humanity andenvironment. Another effect of the use of 1st person is existent in the tone of the entire extract. The tone shows the narrator’s questioning and analyzing nature. This isachieved through 1st person, because the narrator puts down his ideas directly from what he sees. The very first sentence is a great example of the questioning tonecreated with 1st person: “We must ask what is it we would like a scientifically literate society to know”. The sentence draws the reader’s attention to it as well. Therefore,another outcome of use of 1st person point of view is related to audience. 1st point of view brings out the genre too. In What is Science, the last effect of the use of 1st personis that the narrator has the freedom to analyze in greater detail and show his own views clearer compared to a text written in 3rd person where it would be harder to see thenarrator’s own views versus the facts. This is true for Pass It On as we can see in lines 2-3 where the narrator persuades the reader to “do something” by directly appealingto the reader with a command. So, in Pass It On, the 3rd person point of view doesn’t help in making the text more persuasive; there are other uses of language which makethe author’s purpose conclusive, such as the choice vocabulary and the laconic sentences. 3rd person point of view has a role in creating the tone. It is an omniscient pointof view where the narrator knows everything. This is the case in Pass It On due to wide range of information and detail. In lines 6 to 9, for example, the narrator has used aquote to achieve his purpose of writing this article. The interesting fact about this quote is that, it has less significance than the owner of the quote, because of theexcessive amount of information on him. Finally, a very important difference between the two texts is that the point of view of Pass It On brings out the genre unlike the pointof view of What Is Science. The reason is that essays can be written in any point of view unlike an informative article. The structure in both texts has very important role in demonstrating the themes, because it paves the way for the reader to understand the ideas, to concur with thenarrators, and to like/dislike reading the texts. In What Is Science, there are four paragraphs. The first paragraph is about how much the society should know in science. Thesecond paragraph is about how scientists control science. Different views on the role of science in humans’ lives and the environment are discussed in the 3rd paragraph. Inthe final paragraph, there is a little bit of information about how science evolved in relation to human evolution as well as a bit of conclusion where the narrator brings out hispurpose in the last sentence. The majority of the sentences are very long. For example, the sentence starting in line 2 ends at the end of line 4. It is a controversy whetheruse of long sentences eases clarity, expressiveness, and impressiveness. For some readers, it may be better to read long sentences instead of chopped up smallsentences. On the other hand, for some, it may be better to read short sentences, slow their pace and absorb the ideas in greater detail. A drawback of long sentences isthat they may become run-on sentences and lose the reader’s attention. In Pass It On, the similar controversy is existent, but in less amount. There is a wider range ofsentence lengths. So, this text would be better for those who prefer to read shorter sentences. The first paragraph is made of many small sentences, such as the following:“Stage a trivia contest. Screen a film. Open your lab to tours.” (line 1). It gets the reader’s attention, interest, and makes them wonder what the article will be about.However, one detail must be noted about the given example. The reader’s attention is not gained only through short sentences; it is also gained through direct contact to thereader by commands and the use of “you”. The number of paragraphs is greater than the number of paragraphs in What is Science. The paragraphs are also shorter thanthe length of paragraphs on What is Science. This breaks up the text more and thus makes it easier to follow. The first paragraph is an introduction, which, in the secondparagraph, is followed up by some background information about the main concept (not the theme) of the text. In the third paragraph, the main theme of the text ispresented. In the 4th and 5th paragraphs, there are examples given. The 6th paragraph summarizes what was the intended meaning of 4th and 5th paragraphs. The lastparagraph is contact information for future reference—this supports the fact that it is an informative article. This type of structure points out the theme, as well as theauthor’s purpose and supports it with many examples. Therefore, the persuasiveness increases. Structure has great importance in getting the reader’s attention anddelivering the message to the reader. The differences between the structures of the two texts present the strength of delivery of message and how well the reader givesattention to the texts. The use of language is what emphasizes and brings out the ideas in both of the texts. When one compares the amount of stylistic devices, he/she would see that thereare more stylistic devices in What is Science. For example, in line 3, there is hyperbole in the following phrase: “explosive growth of scientific knowledge.” This means thatscientific knowledge has not just grown, but it has grown excessively. When this fact is connected to the theme, one sees that as there is more scientific knowledge, there ismore that humans have revealed about their lives and environment around them. There is also irony in line four about scientists’ little knowledge about their areas due tofast discovery of scientific facts. In Pass It On, there is no significant use of stylistic devices. It may make the reading dull, and boring if the article is being read for leisure.However, if this article is to be used for a serious work, then it may be good that it is simple with no stylistic devices that increase the risk of confusion andmisunderstandings. Another area to consider is the choice of words. The vocabulary is much more complex in What is Science when compared to Pass It On. This affectsthe simplicity of the texts and it may have impact on the audience. It is understandable why Pass It On has simple vocabulary, and little science-terminology. The articlewants to present an event to the readers and persuade them to take action in it. So, it needs to appeal to a wider audience. On the other hand, What Is Science doesn’thave such a mission. It just needs to make its reader agree with the ideas presented in it. In other words, it is the vocabulary that affects the amount of audience in Pass ItOn, unlike in What is Science. One last thing to note is that in Pass It On, there is a Latin phrase in line 5 that puts emphasis on what the author is trying to show the reader.He is trying to show what is being done globally about the event. Adding another language is an interesting way to show this due to its eye-catching nature. No suchdimension to the text is present in What Is Science. Use of language has an important role in the delivery of message, and it is a limiting factor in amount of audience—andwho the audience is. In conclusion, the two texts have great amount of similarities and differences in terms of point of view, structure and use of language. These three concepts bring out thetheme of each text step by step. Once again, the theme of What Is Science is that science reveals the truth about the human life and the environment. In Pass It On, thetheme that is presented is a special year in human history, called “World Year of Physics”. In both texts, the authors try to persuade their readers to either agree with them,or take action. Both of them achieve success through their strengths in specific areas. For example, use of 1st person made What is Science much more persuasive than theuse of 3rd person in Pass it On. On the other hand, the detailed and organized structure of Pass it On eased the delivery of message, but the long and complicatedsentences of What Is Science hardened the understanding of the message. However, it is clear that both texts are related to natural sciences.

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