In the introduction of my paper/letter to a scientific journal, I would like to describe that, in a particular area of research, there are a lot of new methods presented during the last years, that essentially do the same thing but in a (marginally) different way.

It is my opinion that, in most cases, these small differences, without any clear advantages over other methods besides being different, do not really justify the publication in many cases; more importantly, it seems to start to be a trend towards differentiation, just for the sake of differentiation without progression.

It kind of feels like the art school students who I meet on the bus every day. They all try to be different by having piercings and tattoos in different places and combinations (which is fine), but in the end they are all alike, because they try to be different in the same way with the same ingredients.

I am looking for a good or better word, expression or phrase to express this idea in a shorter, better and catchier (even a bit provocative) way.

EDIT: maybe a better title would be: Is there a word or expression to describe a desperate act of "trying to be different in a non original way"?

  • Desperate need to "stand out from the crowd"?
    – Catija
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 17:43
  • 1
    Why on Earth would you feel a need to bring that up in the intro of your contribution to a scientific journal (assuming that your contribution has something else to say as well)? Unless your scientific research is explicitly about this phenomenon, this sounds like an extraneous rant and not a scientific contribution.
    – Drew
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 21:19
  • I read your question and immediately thought of the way the Python programming language uses Tabs instead of curly braces to delimit program blocks. Virtually every other language I've ever used uses curly braces. To me, this was a superficial alteration with no clear benefit. I wish I had a better phrase but I don't at the moment Commented Nov 3, 2015 at 7:30

5 Answers 5


A contrarian, perhaps?

a person who takes an opposite or different position or attitude from other people

This in commonly applied in economic contexts, but it is applicable in other cases too.

EDIT: To describe their act of "presenting the same stuff with a new name", you could consider

old wine in a new bottle (uncountable)

An existing concept or institution offered as though it were a new one.


  • I like that word, but not for this situation, Because a contrarian is quite different. But in this case i like to emphasize that the differences in the papers are to small, not contrarian enough (IMO), they present the same stuff with a new name while it does the same and is only a small variation.
    – Sarmes
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 18:28
  • @Sarmes: See edit.
    – Tushar Raj
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 18:31
  • I like that, but i will also wait some more suggestions (cant up vote yet, not enough rep here)
    – Sarmes
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 18:33

eccentricity (wikipedia)

In popular usage, eccentricity (also called quirkiness) refers to unusual or odd behavior on the part of an individual. This behavior would typically be perceived as unusual or unnecessary, without being demonstrably maladaptive.

posturing (Collins)

noun (formal, pejorative) false behaviour in order to impress or deceive people ⇒ "political posturing", "There's been a lot of posturing on both sides.", "Even Nixon was disgusted by the posturing and false melodrama."

attitudinizing (Collins)

verb (intransitive) to adopt a pose or opinion for effect; strike an attitude


Hipster. Doesn't describe the 'desperate act', but hipsters are thought to be merely “trying to be different”.


Perhaps they are trite?

Trite (adj) (of a remark, opinion, or idea) overused and consequently of little import; lacking originality or freshness.

"this point may now seem obvious and trite"

Synonyms: banal, hackneyed, cliched, platitudinous, vapid, commonplace, stock, conventional, stereotyped, overused, overdone, overworked, stale, worn out, timeworn, tired, hoary, hack, unimaginative, unoriginal, uninteresting, dull, uninvolving


Nonconformist is the word you're looking for.

  • Please explain why nonconformist is an apt term to describe "a desperate act of 'trying to be different.'" Most of the nonconformists I know seem able to be distinctly different without betraying the least bit of desperation—and indeed without seeming to try at all.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 14, 2016 at 5:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.