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Your Research Paper’s Microstructure

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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:

  1.  Linking words:
  • 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 …

 

  1. 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!

 

  1. Repetition:
  • 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.

 

  1. Formal language:
  • 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)

 

  1. 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 …

 

  1. Avoid generalizations:
  • 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.

 

  1. 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