Jun 252012

Let’s think about it. How often do we listen to someone’s ideas for hours on end? We may listen to a lecture for an hour, and we might have to listen to friends and family members talk endlessly, but the fact is that we get bored very quickly when we have to listen to someone’s ideas for hours.

So, what has this got to do with academic writing? Quite a lot, actually. If you have written a dissertation of 15,000 words, your reader is in the same position as the person listening. They have to absorb your ideas for a long, long time, and this can be boring. It becomes worse than boring if the English is poor, the ideas are not clear and the arguments are difficult to follow.

Repeating points: don’t repeat ideas over and over; at the very least, try to vary the language you use to express your ideas. In some cultures, repeating a point over and over is seen as a way of strengthening your argument. This is most certainly not the case in Academic writing in Western Universities. If you repeat the same ideas with the same words, your reader/marker will think that you have run out of ideas.

Linking ideas: complex arguments, such as those that we find in dissertations and academic assignments, are difficult to follow. Remember, you are given marks for your ideas, and if the language is not clear, then neither are your ideas.

Many dissertations that I proof read/copy-edit are very “user-unfriendly” i.e .they do not make it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s ideas. If you link ideas together well, the reader/marker can follow your arguments more closely.

How do I link ideas?

There are 3 main ways of linking ideas:

Cause and effect: I was hungry, so I bought a sandwich.

Contrast: I am tall, but my brother is short.

Emphasis: I am tired and I am hungry.

Of course, words such as “so”,” but” and “and” are beginner’s English.

Let’s look at some more formal/academic alternatives to these words:

Cause and effect: therefore, thus, consequently, as a result, as a consequence, hence, due to this.

Contrast: however, despite this, nevertheless, notwithstanding this, although, by/in contrast.

Emphasis: moreover, in addition, what is more, furthermore, additionally, indeed.

These linking words do not all function in the same way-check a grammar book to see how they can affect word order.

Final point: never begin sentences with “And” !