Examining scientific writing styles from the perspective of linguistic complexity

Chao Lu, Yi Bu, Jie Wang, Ying Ding, Vetle Torvik, Matthew Schnaars, Chengzhi Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Publishing articles in high-impact English journals is difficult for scholars around the world, especially for non-native English-speaking scholars (NNESs), most of whom struggle with proficiency in English. To uncover the differences in English scientific writing between native English-speaking scholars (NESs) and NNESs, we collected a large-scale data set containing more than 150,000 full-text articles published in PLoS between 2006 and 2015. We divided these articles into three groups according to the ethnic backgrounds of the first and corresponding authors, obtained by Ethnea, and examined the scientific writing styles in English from a two-fold perspective of linguistic complexity: (a) syntactic complexity, including measurements of sentence length and sentence complexity; and (b) lexical complexity, including measurements of lexical diversity, lexical density, and lexical sophistication. The observations suggest marginal differences between groups in syntactical and lexical complexity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-475
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences

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