Research hacks #11: Let your arguments breathe

You’re writing a PhD, research article or undergraduate essay. You’re excited by your topic and you have lots to say. You want to say it all, and you want to impress your reader by your high-powered, complex, sophisticated argument. Good for you. These are all laudable intentions, but one mistake that many research students fall into is that they become so intensely involved with the minutiae of their material that they expect every reader to come to their writing already possessing the same intimate knowledge of their project that it took the student themselves months to build up. You can’t expect that of your readers. If you let rip with both barrels from the first paragraph then by the end you will leave your reader poleaxed and on the floor, indignant and frustrated, buried under a barrage of technical terms, in-house phrasing and sinuous formulations.

If your reader has to stop multiple times every paragraph in order to re-read a dense sentence or to look up a specialist term you haven’t bothered to explain, don’t be surprised if your examiners become frustrated or if other readers simply give up and move on to something else. Your reader is not a potential rival you have to beat into submission, but a potential ally you have the opportunity to woo. Don’t get them offside by throwing at them paragraph after paragraph of relentlessly dense prose that assumes they knew what you were thinking when you wrote it. Read more on christopherwatkin.com >>

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