Arizona State University
SUGGESTION #1: HAVE YOUR COMPUTER READ YOUR WRITING OUT LOUD AS YOU EDIT IT
Editors have long recognized that
reading out loud is one of the best ways of catching mistakes. This
can be automated! Macintosh computers come with the "Simpletext"
program that will read your writing out loud for you. You can obtain
similar programs for PCs.
[HINT: The most efficient solution is to put two computers, side-by-side. One computer (e.g., an old Macintosh computer that cost you $20 at a garage sale) does the reading. You then edit on the second computer. Just remember to get a cup of coffee before you start.]
SUGGESTION #2: FORMULAE FOR WRITING AN ABSTRACT
Step 1: Make a list of all of the words that YOU would select as key words in your searching about your research. Think methodologically. Think topically. Think geographically. Think applied.
Step 2: Use all of those words to prepare the equivalent of a "movie promo". Don't oversell. But don't undersell. This is your one shot at international access.
Step 3: Use suggestion #5 below in
destroying all passive verbs before you finish.
SUGGESTION #3: THROW YOUR READER A BONE! GIVE THEM A ROAD MAP!
You must tell your reader the organization of your paper or chapter. Do this as soon as you can in the introduction.
Then, you must also tell the reader the organization of each large section of your paper or chapter. Do this as soon as you can in the first paragraph of each section.
You simply cannot go wrong in telling them what's coming in advance.
As a part of your road map, be sure
to practice proper scholarship in citing (referencing) your sources.
If you are unsure of the right way to cite references, including electronic
SUGGESTION #4: REMEMBER TO DO A VICTORY LAP
This section is for those of you who are writing a research paper for publication or a thesis.
You spent a huge chunk of your life reading the literature on your research topic. You spent another big chunk of your paper or thesis in reviewing that literature.
When your paper/thesis is over, connect
your research advances to that literature. Nobody expects you to
rewrite a field of study. Your reader expects that you added a sand
grain of knowledge to the hour glass of your field of study. But
for goodness sakes, explain how your sand grain adds to your field and
connects to the bigger picture.
SUGGESTION #5: NUKE PASSIVE VOICE
Some silly scientists think that passive voice (it is believed; some have found; the field site is located; the sample was first ground) somehow makes them sound scientific and objective. I think that these beliefs are a refuge of lazy writers. Please, pretty please, search and destroy passive voice. This section explains how to use word processors to take control of your writing and dig out all passive verbs from your research paper/thesis.
Why Active Verbs?
Writers often make lazy choices. We use generic all-purpose verbs such as been, be, had, have, were, was, and is. Especially in scientific journal articles, these verbs make encore appearances with more regularity than car commercials in a football game. Yet these "passive" words convey little. Even worse are the catch all "deal with" and "show" choices. I scream in frustration everytime I read another: "it has been thought by Schuckitelly that..."
Why not try something more exciting, such as:"Schmuckitelly revealed"...
Active verbs convey meaning as you describe work and ideas. As a rule, passive verbs show up most commonly in:
How do I get rid of the Passive Voice?
You can get rid of passive voice writing in one night. Well. Okay. It may take a little bit longer. But you can identify all of your targets in a few seconds.
Step 1: Make your word processor show revisions. You will have to search for this choice in your word processes. For example, in Microsoft Word, revisions... is under "tools." You must select the show revisions option.
Step 2: Use the "search and replace" ability of your program, by
replace ^is^ with ^REPLACE ME^ (^ is my way of telling you to put in a space before and after the verb)
replace ^was^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^were^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^had^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^have^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^get^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^got^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^be^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^been^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^deal with^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^show^ with ^REPLACE ME^
replace ^any other passive verb your editor/teacher hates^ with ^REPLACE ME^
Step 3: Rewrite each sentence with an active verb. Passive sentences typically place the true subject at the end. Thus, you may need to turn the sentence backwards to destroy passive voice.
Step 4: You can see all the changes
at once by clicking off the show revisions option, or some programs allow
you to accept or reject the changes one-by-one.
Look below for two lists of active
words developed by Dr. Joe Schall at Penn State University. I recommend
that you visit his website for more insights into writing at http://www.ems.psu.edu/~schall/Schall.html
Yet be careful! Each of these
words infers specific individual, analytical meaning. When using this list,
be sure to choose the best verb for a situation. For efficiency,
accuracy, and your own credibility, always aim for the best and simplest
verb. If you are unsure of meaning, be sure to look it up.
Active Verbs That Describe Work
|restrict||determine||detail||sum up||designate||point out||set forth|
Active Verbs That Describe Phenomena
Good luck on your paper!