I am in an odd situation. I am not a biologist. But I have a family member who is so I have access to a raft of books. So I am a non qualified layperson and some kind of expert at the same time.

So I can relate to people who have no biological knowledge. Should I leave terms in the question and repeat them in the answer? For instance if someone uses "veins" as part of a plant it's probably not a botanical term. But it is the perfect term for any normal person; they can look at their hands and see veins and think of that part of a plant. So to me it's a good thing to repeat terms that are informal; I am trying to write for the person on the street.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add that if someone uses an incorrect term and you know the correct one, it can be very helpful to let them know what the correct term is. In these internet-dominated days knowing the right search terms can often be the only barrier to further self study. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 16:45

1 Answer 1



No, don't simplify. But please do explain! :).

Long Answer:

You can do as you please regarding this, but...

I suggest and invite you to revisit our Tour page, which indicates for whom this site is meant for:

Biology Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for biology researchers, academics, and students

In other words, the posts are "meant" to be technical as that is our target audience. We shouldn't shy away from speaking concisely, accurately, or technically just because some visitors might not understand what we're talking about.

That being said, we know that a large amount of our site traffic comes from people simply passing through, many of whom are likely not biologists nor remember or know much from past biology classwork. As such, it does no harm to explain yourself.

My takeaway suggestion: Don't shy away from using vocabulary, jargon, imagery, or anything that best explains your research or any biological point you're trying to make. If at any point you think that others (including even other biologists) will not understand what you're talking about, then please explain what you're talking about through the addition of simpler terms, analogies, or (preferably) links or citations to further reading/learning. However, do so without totally eliminating the "science."

In a perfect world, your inclusion of complex biological terms and concepts will teach someone something technical, your explanation can make it digestable, and your inclusion of links or citations teach others to find new information on their own enabling them to move beyond "what's the right answer?" to "I wonder...."

Hope this helps!

Thanks for joining the Biology Stack Exchange community, and happy answering! :)

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    $\begingroup$ P.S. if you look at early questions on this site, they were quite technical & usually rather thought provoking. As more non-biologists started asking increasingly "low quality" or academically simple questions here, the community hasn't kept up with downvoting, populations shifted (causing acceptable question quality to change), & now I think many of us earlier members would say that scientific quality overall has been diminished quite noticeably. Unfortunately, as a result, many of our bio researchers and academics (i.e., the "pros") have left our site looking for more stimulating discourse. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 3:17
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    $\begingroup$ The result is an ever moving creep towards being less academic/scientific and more like Yahoo Answers :p. Given the amount of misinformation, lack of expertise, and failure to stimulate further self-learning that is usually present on sites like Yahoo answers, we don't want to be like them. I mention all of this, because an intentional simplifying of concepts (without first explaining and using the proper lingo) will just exacerbate that erosion of scientific quality here. So it can be reserved for other sites, while we continue to try to uphold some academic/scientific rigor on this site. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 3:21
  • $\begingroup$ I want to add that I have a kind of specialisation in entymology, especially termites, and some forest ecology such as wood rot, fungi and wood durability. So your handle as theforestecologist jumped out at me! So in those areas I would be more likely to use formal terminology. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to add as well that I don't take an ego based approach any section of Stack; sometimes I have accepted answers that are not my opinion. But the posts have done a lot of research with good arguments and references. I agree; I would like to see us as a bit of an improvment on Yahoo! $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Another aspect to mention is that sometimes when you have specialist knowledge laypeople do not believe your factual statements. To me "the soldier termites only boot our the aeletes within 24 hours of rain" is a normal factual stement that no entymologist would argue with. But a layperson sees that and thinks "what kind of voodoo is that? You are saying termites predict the weather BS." $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ @Snack_Food_Termite Nothing in this answer suggests that citation is not necessary. The extent of required citation has been debated a bit here but the standard I tend to prefer is that if it isn't something found in a basic college-level textbook, it should be supported with citation. We do not allow claimed expertise as a way to excuse not citing things that need citation, because there is no way to verify any credentials here. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause Mod
    Commented Jul 2, 2019 at 14:54

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