Here are seven linguistics tips regarding the microstructure of your research paper. Follow these basics and turn each paragraph into a logical and coherent text that will invite readers to explore your paper.
Make your paragraphs microstructure coherent and sequential by:
- Adding a clear topic sentence to each paragraph. This is usually, but not necessarily, the first sentence.
- Making sure that the paragraph stays within the scope of the topic sentence.
- Putting yourself in the reader’s position and creating a sequence of facts or ideas that is logical and easy to follow.
Signal logical connections:
- When logical connections are specified, your readers will have an easier task in seeing how one sentence/paragraph relates to another.
- Signaling tools you can use to improve coherence:
- in this respect / with regard to / concerning = highlighting a topic
- although / while / however / in contrast = showing contrast
- thus / therefore / as a result / consequently = showing result and logical flow
- also / moreover / furthermore / in addition = adding information
- for example / for instance / in other words = giving parallel or illustrating a point you made
- subsequently / next / finally = emphasizing sequence
The difference between ‘however’ (adverb) and ‘although’ (conjunction):
- This study does not address the issue of causality. However, these findings do add one more dimension to a growing body of literature that …
- Although this study does not address the issue of causality, these findings do provide evidence of …
Enumeration (first, second…):
- Both first and firstly can be used, but be consistent. If you use firstly, then you should use secondly.
- Do not use these linking words to start a paragraph!
- Needs to be avoided. Rephrase sentences and restructure paragraphs to avoid repetition.
- Don’t: The European Community established the European Monetary System in 1978. The establishment of the monetary system took place during a European summit in Bremen and the system was put into operation a year after this summit.
- Do: The European Monetary System (EMS) was established by the European Community in 1978 during a European summit in Bremen and was put into operation a year later.
- Sometimes, repetition can be useful to avoid confusion. Sometimes precision is more important than variety, in particular in your methodology, results, and discussion chapters. Also, repetition is a useful tool to express a clear contrast.
- Don’t: A company that produces environment-friendly products is not necessarily as ‘clean’ as an organization that operates an ecologically responsible means of production.
- Do: A company that produces environment-friendly products is not necessarily as ‘clean’ as an organization that operates an environmental-friendly means of production.
- Use longer and somewhat more complex sentences, but do not overdo it.
- Avoid informal expressions (by the way, a bit, …). Use formal alternatives: incidentally, slightly…
- Do not use contraction (she’s = she is)
Use of “I”:
- Academic writing is usually depersonalized and avoids using “I”.
- But: you may use “I” sparingly. For example, if your paper is not co-authored, I would even recommend the use of “I”.
- Alternatives to using “I”:
- It is … structures: It is clear / It is worth noting / It is important to note that / Surprisingly
- Sentence adverbs: Clearly / Unfortunately / Interestingly / Importantly / …
- Don’t: I find it surprising that these reasons were completely neglected.
- Do: Surprisingly, these reasons were completely neglected. OR: It is surprising that these reasons were completely neglected.
- Don’t: I think the potential mismatch is particularly important in …
- Do: The potential mismatch is particularly important in …
- Limit and qualify what you’re claiming to make your writing more precise and objective. Do not use overly broad generalizations.
- Use the following constructions: it is likely that / probably / to a certain extent / this could mean that / this seems to show / …
- Don’t: It is obvious that this supports our hypothesis.
- Do: This seems to lend support to our hypothesis.
- Don’t: The respondents judged that …
- Do: A majority of the respondents judged that …
- Don’t: This phenomenon is visible everywhere.
- Do: This phenomenon is visible in most parts of the world.
Avoid old-fashioned archaic language
- Your paper will not become more “academic” when you use a great number of difficult words and overly complex sentences. This only leads to a text that is more difficult to read.
- Examples of archaic language: hereupon, hither, therewith, whence