Tips for Making Your Academic or Scientific Writing Eminently Citable
Excellent research, significant results, effective analysis and thoughtful discussion are sound ingredients for scholarly writing that will attract readers, disseminate knowledge and earn citations. However, as many authors of academic and scientific documents have discovered, there is more behind being cited frequently than producing writing that demonstrates the highest standards of scholarship. For instance, writing in a manner that makes your results and your discussion of them easy to cite can play an important role as well.
It is a fact, if a rather unfortunate one, that the best research and writing are not always the most cited research and writing. Let us say, for example, that there are two published articles that focus on very similar issues via similar methodology and ultimately produce similar findings and come to similar conclusions. One of those papers is much longer and more detailed than the other. That longer article describes all the results of the research, presenting a more complicated picture for the reader, while the other article is more selective, simplifying the evidence. The longer paper may even be better written than the shorter paper, using language that is more accurate and precise and containing far fewer errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Despite all of its scholarly strengths, however, it is the shorter paper that is earning more citations in the work of other scholarly authors. It is only rational to wonder why.
Well, for one, simpler material is much easier to cite and quote, as inappropriate as this may seem when it comes to academic and scientific writing. Fortunately, the appeal of simplicity is a fact that can be used in constructive ways even by those careful and thorough researchers who cannot bear to simplify the nature of their research, its findings and its implications. The key is to provide those simple statements that are so appealing when scholars are looking for authorities to cite and words to quote, but to do so without compromising the complexity of the scholarship. Perhaps A plus B does not necessarily equal C in all instances investigated, but if that pattern is the general trend or is true in most cases, it is worth making that or a similarly straightforward statement in a short sentence either before or after the complications and exceptions are discussed. Remember that if you qualify every conclusion as you make it, it will likely prove more difficult for readers to find the clear statements they may be seeking to support their own research. This will seem to some authors too much of a compromise, so it is an approach that will not suit everyone, but given the many rewards of high citation rates, it can be well worth a try and it can also add clarity to the most complex and subtle research.
Other effective tools for earning citations are short sections that are carefully focussed and boast catchy headings, tables that effectively gather data into revealing patterns and figures such as charts and graphs that communicate information and trends in visual forms. These aspects of scholarly writing will help readers quickly find and digest the information they are seeking. Often an author will refer readers to another author’s concise discussion, well-designed table or attractive figure instead of describing the information it contains in detail, but this is more likely to happen if your sections, tables and figures are designed for presenting your research clearly with maximum impact.
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