Skip to content

学术探讨与对话:中英文法律论文的比较

2020年4月22日,北京大学国际法学院长期访问杰出学者Susan Finder与中国社会科学院国际法研究所助理研究员傅攀峰博士进行了主题为“中英文法学学术论文写作比较”的学术对话。对话围绕中英文法学学术论文的“读者意识”、“结构”、“论点”、“语言”和“剽窃”进行了讨论,并在最后对学生提问一一进行了回答。 Susan Finder(范思深)是北京大学国际法学院长期访问杰出学者,擅长于从比较法的角度研究中国司法制度。范教授本科毕业于耶鲁大学,并获哈佛大学J.D.学位和哥伦比亚大学法学硕士学位。在加入北京大学国际法学院前,范教授曾在包括富而德(Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer)在内的全球知名律师事务所中从事与中国相关的法律实务工作,还曾从事法律编辑工作并短暂从事证券监管工作,这一过程长达二十年。下文是本次学术谈话的记录: (声明: 此次对话为一次学术探讨,对话内容仅代表个人的观点。)

问题一:读者意识

Finder教授:中文论文的作者会像英文论文的作者那样,考虑读者的需求吗?  

傅攀峰博士:当然会考虑。不过,在发表论文的压力下,许多学者被迫重点考虑期刊的风格和编辑的喜好。发表论文是非常重要的,读者只是我们考虑的因素之一。

Finder教授:在美国,比较常见的法律期刊是法律评论,很多著名的法律评论都是由学生运作的,比如《哈佛法律评论》。一般教授写论文,学生写综述。所以在发表的时候,我觉得美国比中国容易一些。

傅攀峰博士:对,现在的趋势是我们尝试着模仿美国的做法,让学生参与期刊编辑。不过,教授们仍负责期刊编辑的核心工作。

Finder教授:我认为中美学术期刊最大的区别是,中国的期刊需要官方批准的刊号,而在美国,办期刊的程序是比较简单的。

傅攀峰博士:是的。在中国,刊号有两套,一套与国际接轨,即ISSN刊号;一套面向国内,即CN刊号。国内刊号很难拿到,以书代刊的现象比较常见。我所在的中国社会科学院国际法研究所主办的《国际法研究》六年前才拿到国内第一个国际法期刊刊号。

问题二:结构

Finder教授:英文法律学术论文的结构包括引言、正文和结论,中文论文是一样的吗?

傅攀峰博士:整体上差不多。在引言部分,中文的较为含蓄,有的学者甚至会用文学化的语言引入下文,而英文的则更为直白,会开门见山地点明文章的论点(Thesis)以及行文的框架结构(Roadmap)。但近年来很多中文论文受到英文论文的影响,也会在开篇就明确地提出要分析的问题。二者在背景介绍(Background)方面的差异很明显。英文论文的作者出于对“读者意识”的重视,会对文章涉及到的背景知识或其他学者的观点做一个交待。但中文论文的作者往往会假定读者是具备相关背景知识的专业人士,所以不会在此部分花费太多笔墨,但也有的中文论文会对其他学者的观点进行总结。我现在正在写一篇关于中国仲裁制度下自裁管辖权原则的英语论文。很多人不了解中国仲裁的特点,以及为什么是仲裁委员会而不是仲裁庭有权处理仲裁管辖权异议,所以在这篇英文论文中我就写了背景介绍。

傅攀峰博士:在正文中,越来越多的中文学术论文首先将问题抛出,然后把这个问题切分成具体部分来分析,并讨论其他学者的观点,进而提出解决问题的方法。然而,有不少中文论文,特别是学生的论文,有时在一个段落中杂糅不同的且关联性不大的观点,或是段落与段落间衔接不够恰当,这些问题都会导致文章说理的逻辑混乱,降低其说服力。在国外,学者们倾向于用大量的统计数据作为论据,而中国学者则偏向用常识性知识和主观经验来分析问题。另外,论点(Thesis)在中文论文的引言部分也不多见。

Finder教授:的确,英文论文对段落有严格的逻辑要求,需要建立从想法1到想法2之间清晰的逻辑连接。行文的框架总结是非常重要的。至于数据的使用,其实是取决于文章的类型,不过现在也成了流行的做法。

傅攀峰博士:中国现在也有一些学者在文章中使用大量的数据,但有时其可靠性是个问题。我在审读一些稿件时,发现有些论文所引用的数据出自于形形色色的机构,它们的可靠性其实值得怀疑。

Finder教授:对,有的人引用的数据其实是不恰当的,数据的含义可能与文章的主题是脱节的。

问题三:论点

傅攀峰博士:不少中文学术论文会犯两个错误,一个是没有论点,另一个则是论点与正文论述联系不紧密。法学论文和说明书、抒情散文不同,必须要有支撑全文的论点以及相应的论证过程,而很多文章的问题恰恰就是缺乏论点。即便在引言部分提出了一个形似论点的观点,也与后文的论证没有太大关系,这样的论文是有问题的。

Prof Finder: What is the mainstream approach in China?

Dr Fu: “Chinese Journal of Law” is a very major journal—many of the articles have broad titles.

Prof Finder: When compared to the Yale Law Journal and Harvard Law Review (for example), the topics tend to be more specific.

Dr Fu:  On the contrary in China, major journals like broad themes, less known journals would prefer more specific topics.

Prof Finder: Is the background section optional in Chinese academic writing?

Dr Fu: It is optional. In many Chinese articles, authors raise a question (issue) instead of giving background.

Prof Finder: The author assumes the audience knows the background?

Dr Fu: It is the norm. The more authoritative the journal is, the more likely it will assume the readers have related background knowledge.

Prof Finder: What are the principles for organizing the body of an academic article?  

Dr Fu: In the body, we first provide a big picture, and then zoom in to focus on each part of the issue. However, it is tricky to keep each part connected with each other.

Prof Finder: In English language articles, we stress having a bridge from one idea to another idea and having a clear logical connection of the parts.

Dr Fu: The article I am writing right now is called the “Kompetenz-Kompetenz Principle of Jurisdiction under Chinese law”. I am writing in English. I assume many prospective readers do not understand the characteristics of China’s arbitration system, and the system that the arbitration commission and the courts are in charge of handling objections to jurisdiction, not the arbitral tribunal itself. So I am writing a background section that explains this. Finally, the body summarizes what the principle is in China.

Prof Finder: If you had written it in Chinese, would there have been any difference?

Dr Fu: The layout would be substantially the same, but the background and introduction part would be taken out for assuming the readers have related background knowledge.

Prof Finder: Use of heading and sub-headings?

Dr Fu: No difference.

Prof Finder: Topic sentences and followed by supporting sentences?

Dr Fu: It is supposed to be like that, but many Chinese scholars don’t follow this structure. Based on my observation, even for well-known journals, there won’t be many subtopics, although each part would be very extensive in length, they would still be under one topic.

Prof Finder: What is the mainstream approach?

Dr Fu: The main approach is dividing into small parts. But it seems the more prestigious the journal is, the less likely you will see a paper divided into many small parts. I saw quite a few articles in the Chinese Journal of Law divided only into four or five parts, 4000-5000 words for each part. The parts do not have subtopics.

Dr Fu: On the topic of having a thesis, there are more and more scholars studying abroad, and Chinese scholars are becoming more and more aware of the importance of thesis.

The Chinese legal system is similar to the tradition of the civil law system, both the civil law and criminal law are deeply influenced by Germany. The opinions from German scholars are very influential. Like the term “legal doctrine (Rechtsdogmatik)” is often used, but it is not the same in the United States.

Prof Finder: What is the mainstream approach to the use of language? Is it short sentences with plain language, with few emotional words?

Dr Fu: The approach is more or less the same as in the US. But you will see many long sentences in Chinese articles, especially in law-related articles. Some Chinese scholars, graduate students in particular tend to write long sentences with many modifiers or clauses. It will create a reading barrier for the reader. I used to be like that when I was a student, but my PhD adviser criticized me, and I managed to change that over time. Two tips: cut to the chase and delete non-necessary words.

Prof Finder: I have found that emotional words are common in students’ articles. Is it a problem in Chinese writing?

Dr Fu: Emotional words should be used carefully and sparingly. The article should have a neutral and objective point of view. The reader doesn’t care about what you think, but what the problem is.

Prof Finder: Passive voice is a no-no rule in English writing.

Dr Fu: Same as in Chinese.

But sometimes authors do not express their opinion clearly, for many reasons. First, the author may not be confident. Second, for fear of offending the mainstream view (e.g. some issues are sensitive, or it is not easy to get published) and other scholars. Third, there is no original point of view.

Prof Finder: In Chinese writing, I’ve noticed that the author’s opinion and suggestions are placed at the end, such as amending the law.

Dr Fu: It is true, Chinese scholars often suggest revising laws. In my view, solutions are sometimes not necessary. An academic article is not a report, it is not written to government departments. So in paper writing, providing suggestions is secondary.

Prof Finder: What about definition of plagiarism in China v. abroad?

Dr Fu: Plagiarism is a critical issue. Plagiarism of ideas constitutes plagiarism now, but maybe not the same 20 years ago.

Prof Finder: What about footnotes?

Dr Fu: The more footnotes you have, the easier it might be for you to publish the article. But footnotes cannot exceed the content of the article.

Dr. Fu responds to questions from students

Q1:How do we find a meaning topic to write about?

A:Combine your theory with hot topics. And pay attention to the differences between Chinese and English readers.

Q2:Does the article have to criticize legislation?What types of journal articles are there? Can it be a specific case study?

A:Yes, in my view, all articles should have a critical spirit. From an academic point of view, the value is in the new insights it provides to the reader.

Leading Chinese law journals publish all types of articles related to law. But some journals do prefer a specific type. For example, Political Science and Law, a Shanghai based law journal, tends to publish more criminal law-related articles, whereas Law and Social Development, a law journal sponsored by Jilin University, tends to publish more articles related to legal philosophy.

Case studies are popular, but it is difficult to select an appropriate case. They need to be connected to the most cutting-edge issues.

Q3:We read a lot of papers, but I don’t know how to come up with new ideas. It seems that I put many papers together.

A:There are many problems that need more attention. Read more, think more.

Chinese scholars don’t write English as well as native speakers, but foreign publications are curious about China, and even if you don’t try to argue a point, they might still get it published.

Q4:Should a case study be on a single decided case, or can it be analysis of the legality of hot issues?

A:The cases of the Supreme People’s Court have guiding significance [even if they aren’t guiding cases], answers to major and difficult problems and so on. The issues involved are very important and be worth analyzing.

Q5:Excuse me, if doing a case study, the article concludes that “there are elements like 1…2…. 3…” Is this a thesis?

A:Yes, but you need to talk about one particular point.

Q6:Is there any difference between an introduction and background section in an article?

A:Depending on the situation, whether a background section is needed or not, in Chinese writing, the introduction and background sections are often mixed up; internationally, it’s whatever makes sense.

Q7:Some of the articles I read often introduce many doctrines, but they do not quote many scholars to prove that they are indeed authoritative. So how should identify authoritative articles when we write?

A: It is related to the accumulation of knowledge, it is necessary to collect articles from important journals. After you are familiar with them, you will understand which article is authoritative. The best advice for students is to look up the authors, read extensively. Authority is sometimes secondary. Some “authoritative opinions” are not always good. Sometimes, young scholars write well, and the articles from them are worth reading.