A well-structured text enables the reader to follow the argument and navigate the text. In academic writing a clear structure and a logical flow are imperative to a cohesive text. Furthermore, in many university assignments the correct use of structure is part of the final assessment. Most academic texts follow established structures.
But conciseness can be difficult to achieve when you have a ball of complex theoretical ideas to untangle. It then gives you nine tips to help you plan, write and edit for brevity.
It gets your message across clearly. That means your document is more likely to achieve its purpose — for example, to show your examiner that your intellectual argument is sound or explain your research to others.
You can fit in more ideas.
Eighty thousand words might seem like a lot when you start writing a PhD thesis, but break that down into chapters and sections and it can soon be hard to stick to the word limit while including everything you want to say.
The tighter you can make each point, the more ideas you can cover. Everyone is busy, and even readers who are familiar with your subject will appreciate you respecting their time. Here are nine tips to help you keep the length under control.
Tip 1 — Plan well Before you start writing, plan your structure. This will help you avoid going off on tangents that could take up the valuable room you need for your central ideas. Order the sections logically. This will help avoid repetition creeping in when you start to write.
Planning helps you to untangle the concepts, theories and arguments and present them in a way that makes sense — all before you start to write individual sentences. Planning tip Try formatting your draft headings using the Styles tool in Word. You can then view the heading structure in the navigation pane to check that your chapters and sections are balanced, logical and without repetition.
To learn how to use Styles, see this guidance from the University of Michigan. To find out how to view the headings in the navigation pane, see this post by my colleague Liz Dexter.
Tip 2 — Structure your paragraphs clearly When writing, structure the information in each paragraph so that there is a clear thread from one sentence to the next.
Thinking about the structure of each paragraph helps you to avoid repeating yourself or going off the point. This will keep your paragraphs and sentences more concise. Keep each paragraph to the development of one idea. When you move on to the next idea, start a new paragraph. Make sure there is a clear connection between one sentence and the next, and between one paragraph and the next.
You can use phrasebanks, such as the University of Manchester Academic Phrasebankfor inspiration. Watch out repeated ideas, such as two sentences that say the same thing using different words or references.
Resource The Using English for Academic Purposes website gives more guidance on how to structure paragraphs effectively. Limiting most of your sentences to around 20 words forces you to be more precise.
Of course, some sentences will need to be longer to express your ideas clearly and add variety to your writing. But if most of your sentences are more than two or three lines long, try editing them down using the tips below.
Are you trying to explain a term at the same time as making a point? Are you jumping ahead to asides or caveats? To fit in extra information, you have to add more clauses. Look out for these inside brackets or between parenthetical dashes or commas see the Before example below.
When these clauses are long, perhaps including quotations too, it gets harder for the reader to hold all the information in their mind and follow the logic of the argument.
If a sentence has too many clauses, the first thing to do is split it up into several shorter ones.
Then you can add connecting words and phrases to link them: However, authentic materials can also be demotivating. As Richard explains, they can be too difficult and contain lexis that the students do not need to be taught at this stage in their learning.Title Coherence and Cohesion in Academic Writing Author Lilian Farag Allah Ask students what they think can make a text coherent based on this simple definition Elicit and lead them to think of the link between ideas.
Thesis statement and topic sentences (Repetition) 3 mins Ask them to identify the topic of the paragraph in text 7.
While the definition of anaphora is that the repetition comes at the beginning of adjacent clauses, repetition in epiphora comes at the end of clauses. Since anaphora uses redundancy to dramatic effect, editors of academic writing and journalism would not approve of it.
The poem is dark and despairing, and this example of anaphora. The use of rubric is closely related to writing assessment  defines rubric is a scoring tool that lists the criteria for a piece of work, or "what counts" (for example, purpose, organization.
Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing (Miguel Roig, published on the Office of Research Integrity) Studies in Plagiarism. Theories Explanations > Theories This is the deepest level of information on this site, covering lots of academic theories that are relevant to changing minds.
Staff credits: The people who made up the Writing Academic English, Fourth Edition, Answer Key team, representing editorial, production, design, and manufacturing, are: Christine Edmonds, Nancy Flaggman, Dana Klinek, Laura Lazzaretti, Laura Le Dréan, and Molly Sackler.