Research Paper Damage Control | Managing a Broken Argument

If you write enough research papers, eventually you find yourself looking at a mostly-written text with the conviction that it’s a complete disaster. I’ve certainly been there, and I know plenty of grad students and academics can say the same.

When you find yourself mired in the despair that comes from watching a seemingly brilliant idea crash and burn in your hands, resist the temptation to delete the file and start from scratch. Your best course of action before you abandon ship is to begin salvaging what you can from the sinking wreck that was your paper.

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How to write effective headings

The goal of using headings in a document is not only to divide information, but also to allow easy navigation of the document. In academic writing, headings help readers find the specific information they want while retaining a sense of how that information fits with everything else in the document.

To test for overall heading clarity, ask yourself the following: from reading your headings in sequence, would an informed reader understand…

  • The content of the document as a whole?
  • The specific content of each section?
  • How each section fits with the others?

If not, your headings aren’t effective, and may need some improvement.

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List of 47 Phrasal Verbs and Their One-Word Substitutions

The following is a list of commonly deployed phrasal verbs that find one use or another in academic texts. These (and others) can be acceptably used in academic texts. Along with these examples, however, are a number of one-word substitutions to illustrate that in each case the phrasal verb can be easily replaced.

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Phrasal Verbs | List, Definition, Examples & Tips

A phrasal verb combines two or more words to describe a specific action. Phrasal verbs can be difficult to get right, as their meaning usually has nothing to do with the definitions of the component words.

This means that phrasal verbs must be treated as distinct pieces of vocabulary. You have to learn them as a single unit of meaning, just like you would learn any single word.

Phrasal verbs are very common in everyday speech, but in academic writing, it’s best to replace them with one-word alternatives where possible.

47 phrasal verbs and one-word alternatives

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Word Order Rules in English

In theory, English sentences take a simple form much of the time. The basic rules for which words appear in a sentence can help you with most of the sentences you’ll need in academic writing.

If we push on these rules, we’ll find many exceptions, but the point here is only to provide a kind of template that can be followed much of the time.

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Exclamation points (!)

Even rarer than question marks, exclamation points are almost never used in academic or formal writing. They owe their rarity in academic writing to the spirit of dispassionate discussion that formal writing usually requires.

The excitability communicated by an exclamation disqualifies the exclamation mark from acceptable use.

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Question Marks (?) | Rules, Use & Examples

Considering the numbers of questions we try to answer in academics, we use question marks infrequently. You might use them to state your research question, to clarify an issue that requires future research, or once in a while to pose a question for your reader to consider as you proceed with your discussion.

Normally, however, you should avoid using questions in your formal or academic writing.

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Forging good titles in academic writing

The title is the first thing your reader will see, and most readers will make their first judgements of your work based on it. For this reason, it’s important to think about your titles carefully.

In academic writing, the most basic things to remember are that your title should be informative, striking, and appropriate. This article briefly discusses these titular qualities, turns to some title templates and examples, and then offers some tips and common title-pitfalls.

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