You Know You’ll Have to Write About It

The odds are, if you’re running OpenSees analyses, you’re going to write about it, whether it’s a thesis/dissertation, technical report, funding proposal, conference paper, or journal article.

Several writing books are available and some are very good. One book that I’ve found useful is Becoming an Academic Writer by Patricia Goodson. The title may sound gimmicky, especially the subtitle “50 Exercises for Paced, Productive, and Powerful Writing”, but a concrete number in the title helps sell books.

Many of the exercises get the writing juices flowing, but I want to focus on Exercise 21 – “Tighten the Paragraphs”. In this exercise, Goodson identifies three components to every paragraph of academic writing:

  1. context/transition
  2. key idea
  3. supporting sentences

Three or four sentences is all each paragraph needs. Also, if a paragraph has more than one key idea, split the writing into more than one paragraph and build out the context/transition and support.

When you review your writing, on screen or on paper, highlight the key idea in each paragraph. Then, if you read only the highlighted key ideas, the flow of your thesis/report/proposal/paper should be obvious. If not, reorder the paragraphs until the key ideas tell the story.

2 thoughts on “You Know You’ll Have to Write About It

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