Graduate Guidebook to Pompous and Highfalutin Jargon

Dear Reader,

There’s no place like an institute of higher learning to make one feel like an utter buffoon. In my eighth year of post-high school education, I’m still building my proficiency in the language of professors and graduate students. In this post, I’m going to present a short list of words that I have encountered over and over (and over, and over) again in academic literature, the post-graduate classroom, and literally nowhere else.

Endogenous

Definition: to originate internally/ to be caused by internal factors

Example sentence: Endogenous changes to the bureaucratic structure can act as a catalyst for cuts in organizational resource spending.

In this sentence, “endogenous” refers to changes that originate from within the bureaucratic structure (like a managerial decision to introduce a new convoluted spending protocol).

Bonus word: Exogenous, the opposite of endogenous, means to come from external origins

Epistemological / Epistemic

Definition. These words are close synonyms and they both broadly relate to “the theory of knowledge” and how valid the underlying logic or actual facts are. (“Epistemic,” however, relates more closely to the validity of this knowledge, while “epistemological” is a more general term.)

Example sentences:

While the conceptualization of the argument was easy to follow and applicable to a variety of cases, its epistemic underpinnings suggest a host of logical fallacies.  

The book was groundbreaking, not only for its depth in coverage, but also for the epistemological certainty of the core argument.

Falsifiable

Definition: to prove/ make false

In research, your hypothesis cannot be proven true until there is a method in place to also prove it wrong. For example, one could prove a lab experiment correct or incorrect, if one were able to take the same steps as the original scientist. However, one could never prove someone’s horoscope to be wrong (therefore, the lab experiment is falsifiable, while the horoscope is not).

Example sentence: Although the scientist was skeptical that the lab experiment could yield the extraordinary results, when he performed the steps himself, he finally accepted the falsifiable hypothesis.

Heuristic

Definition: a tool/ aid/ method that facilitates one’s learning

Example sentence: When the students have trouble understanding a complicated theory, the professor usually resorts to oversimplified metaphors or graphics as a heuristic to clarify the point.

Ontology

Definition: the study of/ view of/ understanding of the claims and assumptions regarding reality/ being/ existence/ “what is”

Example sentence: Before one can develop a theory behind life-or-death decision-making, one must foremost understand whether the ontology is supported, before proposing a framework to explore the concept.

In this sentence, “ontology” refers to the existence of “life-or-death decision-making” as a phenomenon (are “life-or-death decisions” even a thing?).

Tautology

Definition: the repetition of a concept used as a premise to prove a conclusion (can be a simple redundancy, but also a logical fallacy)

An example of a tautology: The first-place runner is the one who overcomes his/her/their opponents to finish before anyone else.

In research, tautologies are not this obvious. In articles, I have often found the word “tautological” to be used as a derogatory comment to undermine arguments based on self-evident claims.


Phew! That was mentally draining, so if you read the whole thing (and didn’t get bored) — I salute you. Welp, it’s probably about time that I get back to reading oodles of pages with all these words (and too many more…).

With profound tenderness and affection (more commonly known as “love”),

Raven

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