“Explanatory” talk in mathematics research papers

2016-12-08T14:31:32Z (GMT) by Juan P. Mejia-Ramos Matthew Inglis
In this paper we explore the ways in which mathematicians talk about explanation in their research papers. We analyze the use of the words explain/explanation (and various related words) in a large corpus of text containing research papers in both mathematics and physical sciences. We found that mathematicians do not frequently use this family of words and that their use is considerably more prevalent in physics papers than in mathematics papers. In particular, we found that physicists talk about explaining why disproportionately more often than mathematicians. We discuss some possible accounts for these differences.