Excerpted from the paper How the Chinese Government Fabricates Social Media Posts for Strategic Distraction, not Engaged Argument by Gary King

Section 8 discusses the theoretical implications of our findings. We give a unified parsimonious summary of Chinese government internal information control and show how these findings may cause scholars to rethink the notion of “common knowledge” in theories of authoritarian politics more generally.

What does parsimonious summary mean here? I looked it up in a dictionary but it's a bit strange to me, it sounds like the author is unwilling to give us summary.

  • I would take it to mean a summary that seeks to explain things without including anything extraneous or unnecessary.
    – TimR
    Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 11:22

2 Answers 2


Parsimonious implies restrained spending of money or other resources, and normally has the implication of rather excessive frugality. In some contexts I might use parsimonious as a humorous, self-deprecating way of describing my own behaviour: acknowledging my tendency to meanness as a character flaw.

Here it seems slightly odd, the rest of paragraph is very formal, and humour would seem out of place. My reading is that the authors are indicating that they are introducing a summary that they feel to be succinct, with very little elaboration, and are somewhat apologetic for not going into more detail. Had I written this I might have used the word concise instead.

  • 5
    It's not really an odd usage in a "formal, science-based" text. Scientific literature often uses parsimonious as per this definition from the full OED: Of a scientific hypothesis or explanation (esp. a phylogenetic tree): assuming the simplest state, process, evolutionary pathway, etc., that is consistent with the facts or observations; in accordance with the law or principle of parsimony. Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 12:45
  • 1
    I was surprised to see that several dictionaries provided only the "stingy/frugal" sense. One or two included sparing (of money or resource) which is somewhat easier to see as encompassing sparing or minimal in words or ideas. But there is sense 2 here: ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=Parsimonious Commented Aug 21, 2016 at 14:05

Parsimonious in that paper implies all that dilute the summary are eliminated and what should be necessarily added to the summary are selected. That word shows that the summary is exactly what the author expects it to be; no more, no less.

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