The Enduring Value of a Good Appendix in Academic and Scientific Writing

The Enduring Value of a Good Appendix in Academic and Scientific Papers
With competition for publishing space steeper than ever, and the word and length limits set by publishers tighter all the time, it is perhaps little wonder that appendices seem to pop up at the end of scholarly books and articles a good deal less frequently than they once did. After all, among the priorities of many academic and scientific publishers these days are ideals of simplifying, streamlining and shortening. The fact is, however, that creating and including an appendix, or more than one if necessary, can assist an author’s efforts to simplify, streamline and shorten a manuscript without compromising the amount or complexity of research material he or she is able to provide.

The very nature of appendices suggests this benefit. As a general rule, appendices are designed to present subsidiary or supplementary material that is directly related to the material in the main body of a manuscript and potentially helpful to readers, but which might prove distracting or inappropriate or simply too long were it included in the main text. By removing such material from the primary discussion and relegating it to an appendix, an author can often streamline and shorten an argument without simplifying data. In addition, appendices are perfect for information that might be mentioned or discussed in more than one place, especially in a book or long article, because they help the author avoid repetition while rendering the material readily available to readers. Finally, many scholarly periodicals will allow authors to publish appendices in online archives, in which case they will not be included in the word count of the main article, and some academic and scientific presses will be more forgiving of extra pages for a good appendix or two.
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Are appendices really worth it? Well, I know of one scholar who included in his study of an important English poem an appendix that may well have made his book much more successful and therefore beneficial to his scholarly community than might have been the case had he not bothered. His study focussed on a version of the poem rarely read at that time, and his appendix was simply a list of the manuscripts of that version that he had run across in his research. His list became the standard resource for those manuscripts until extensive research (partially inspired by that list) revealed more, and often his book ended up in the hands of scholars and students because of that appendix. Without it, the innovative nature of his discussion and its usefulness in understanding a complex poem may never have been fully appreciated. Appendix and text worked brilliantly together, advancing knowledge and inspiring research while supporting each other, just as a sound scholarly argument and its ancillary material ought to do.

This relationship is much enhanced when there are clear references to appendices and their content in the main discussion so that readers will know where and when to consult the additional information in relation to the primary argument. It is also essential to number and label all appendices carefully when two or more appear in a single document and to ensure that the numbering of any tables and figures used within the appendices clearly distinguishes them from tables and figures in the main text. Clarity, precision and consistency will enhance reader accessibility and comprehension.

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