Tips for a Strong Argument in Academic Writing
A logical and persuasive argument is vital to successful academic and scientific writing. The best arguments grow from in-depth analysis, thoughtful reflection and innovative conclusions, and are then presented via excellent writing in a carefully organised and readily accessible fashion. Supporting evidence lies behind all of these aspects of scholarly argumentation. The sources you consult, the procedures you follow and the data you generate as you investigate a topic provide not only the food for thought as you develop your argument, but also the substance that will convince readers of the value of your research and the validity of your theories and conclusions. Great care must therefore be taken to present these aspects of your work as clearly, thoroughly and effectively as possible.
In most disciplines, some kind of literature review is required when conducting and reporting research, with the number of sources consulted and the amount of space dedicated to discussing them varying considerably depending on the problem tackled, the purpose of a study, its length and other factors. In most cases, searches for relevant sources take place when a project is beginning, and the literature review that arises from the discovery of useful precedents tends to be written in standard ways and relatively early on as well. It is worth considering, however, whether a traditional approach of this kind is entirely appropriate or the best strategy for your document. If a research project continues over a number of years, for instance, searching for new sources as the work progresses and certainly as you are finishing your investigation and writing up your results for publication is wise. You will be better able to judge the relevance of sources and discuss them in relation to your own research once that research has been completed, and you certainly do not want to miss important new publications in your area. It may also prove more effective to discuss certain sources in parts of your text other than your literature review or to make use of them in creative or unusual ways, and adding appropriate citations and quotations at key points when revising a draft of your writing can strengthen your argument.
Tables, charts, graphs and other kinds of figures also serve as excellent means of supporting an academic or scientific argument. If you are using particularly innovative methods in your investigation, it may be useful to provide an illustration of the equipment essential to your study or a flowchart of the processes you followed so that readers understand your methods and are given a clear picture of why they are appropriate and effective. On the other hand, perhaps your research has produced a mountain of data that you have presented thoroughly and with painstaking detail in lengthy tables destined to reside in a long appendix. While that might be necessary, is it really the most effective way to present the key findings that lie at the heart of your argument? It may be helpful to include in your main text smaller tables or perhaps charts or graphs that clearly show in eye-catching ways the most significant trends you discovered. When well designed, accurately labelled and specifically mentioned at relevant points in a discussion, such visual aids can interest and convince readers without distracting them with less important data, and those who wish to know more about the detailed and complicated results you obtained will still be able to find them in your appendix.