I'm an undergraduate student, and I've been reading various academic papers for a Computer Security module I'm currently taking. Occasionally I run into papers with very strange/difficult to read sentence structure for example:

Vigenere cipher is a substitution technique of polyalphabetic substitution. This cipher is easy to understand and implement, therefore the vigenere cipher is very well known. Although (with the help of computers), many computer security programs that use this cipher [6]. The encryption process is carried out by this cipher, by substituting plaintext letters for the characters (letters or numbers) of the key used and vice versa the decryption process substitutes the ciphertext letters with the same key (symmetric key). If the key length is shorter than the length of the plaintext, the key will be repeated, the mathematical model of the vigenere cipher encryption and decryption process is:

From https://arxiv.org/abs/1912.04519

Or this:

WEP try to use from five operations to decrypt the received side (IV + Cipher text).At first, the Pre-Shared Key and IV concatenated to make a secret key. Secondly, the Cipher text and Secret Key go to in CR4 algorithm and a plaintext come as a result. Thirdly, the ICV and plaintext will separate. Fourthly, the plaintext goes to Integrity Algorithm to make a new ICV (ICV’) and finally the new ICV (ICV‘) compare with original ICV.

From https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5234856

I feel like the intended meaning for both of these examples is seriously obscured by the writing style and I'm curious as to why they are written like this.

My obvious instinct is that this is some kind of language translation issue, since the papers are from departments in non-English speaking countries. I'm not sure though whether large journals might "bulk-translate" papers in a journal, or whether they require submissions in English in the first place and academics have to perform their own translation?

Does anyone have any insight as to how language translation issues are generally handled in academia, and why awkward writing styles like this make it through?

Many thanks.

  • 2
    Why do you think this is a translation issue, instead of this being an issue of not having English as primary language?
    – Jeroen
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 11:06
  • @Jeroen I'm not sure. It could be either - I don't really know how academia handles language barriers - why I'm asking. The first paper has its diagrams in a different language though, which makes me think there is some kind of translation happening somewhere along the line.
    – M. McIlree
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 11:14

2 Answers 2


Not all researchers care about the written word, even within their own papers. Not all people who are talented in doing research are also talented in language learning, or writing. As a consequence, many manuscripts are submitted for review even though their language usage is suboptimal at best.

If a reviewer is confronted with a paper containing interesting new ideas but written in a suboptimal way, what should they do? Should they reject the paper, therewith running the risk that the interesting idea never sees the light of day? Or should they accept the paper, therewith accepting that the interesting idea is published albeit with suboptimal language use? There is no good answer here; the choice is to pick the least bad answer.

Some reviewers will choose to accept awkward writing styles, and hence they make it into published papers.


From my experience with peer review: the (english) language quality of some papers is very low - most often the result of the authors not being native speakers.

While it is possible to address some of those issues during review, some problems will remain simply because peer review is not copy editing and if, after several rounds of review all important content-related issues have been resolved, the paper is most often not send in for another round just to fix spelling and grammar.

As for the translation suggestion: the vast majority of (english publishing) journals will require you to hand in your manuscript in english.

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