Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問
The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I have don’t have any problem writing a scholarly paper. The words come easily to me. My problem is organizing a paper so that it flows logically and effectively. Any suggestions?

I am reminded of what the publisher of one of my early books said to me. “Professor,” he said, “the way you write is fine. But what I like best is the way you think.” I was taken back by his remark because I pride myself on my writing. Yet it was the thinking behind the writing that sold my book. The lesson for me—and for you—is that froth, no matter how artfully it is whipped up, does not satisfy like language grounded in solid information and genuine insight. Papers with logic and substance stick to the ribs.

So in all likelihood your problem isn’t one of organization, but of rationalization. That is, in boasting of your writing skills, you are covering up your failure to think through a paper before sitting down to write it. Even if you are a good writer—and I have no idea if you are—an academic paper is first of all a thinking person’s document. Do you really think through a thesis? Do you thoroughly research a subject? If you will build your paper on a foundation of fact, rather than word finesse, you will experience success.

What’s more, logical organization of a paper usually becomes evident in the course of research. Let’s say you uncover a revelatory fact while compiling data—not a game-changer, perhaps, but definitely a piece of new information. The uncovered tidbit suddenly becomes a possible introductory tease for your paper and a pivot point for the body of the work. Even when writing is weak, strong information can pull a paper together, whereas strong writing cannot hide weak research. Think, then write, and your paper will flow.

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