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Andersen, Line Edslev, Johansen, Mikkel Willum, Kragh Sørensen, Henrik. Mathematicians Writing for Mathematicians
2021, Synthese, 198(26): 6233-6250.
Added by: Fenner Stanley Tanswell

We present a case study of how mathematicians write for mathematicians. We have conducted interviews with two research mathematicians, the talented PhD student Adam and his experienced supervisor Thomas, about a research paper they wrote together. Over the course of 2 years, Adam and Thomas revised Adam’s very detailed first draft. At the beginning of this collaboration, Adam was very knowledgeable about the subject of the paper and had good presentational skills but, as a new PhD student, did not yet have experience writing research papers for mathematicians. Thus, one main purpose of revising the paper was to make it take into account the intended audience. For this reason, the changes made to the initial draft and the authors’ purpose in making them provide a window for viewing how mathematicians write for mathematicians. We examined how their paper attracts the interest of the reader and prepares their proofs for validation by the reader. Among other findings, we found that their paper prepares the proofs for two types of validation that the reader can easily switch between.

Comment (from this Blueprint): In this paper, Andersen et al. track the genesis of a maths research paper written in collaboration between a PhD student and his supervisor. They track changes made to sequential drafts and interview the two authors about the motivations for them, and show how the edits are designed to engage the reader in a mathematical narrative on one level, and prepare the paper for different types of validation on another level.

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