A good research paper or thesis is not only expected to have good results but is also well-drafted. Well-drafted implies much more rewriting over the initial draft. For a PhD student, this is not an easy task and requires patience and a lot of attention to detail. So what is the best way to improve a draft paper?
1. The easiest hint is to emulate the best. One can examine similar papers in the best journals to get an idea of what the end product should look like.
2. A lot of times, reorganizing is the easiest way to make a paper more readable and interesting. Just like a journalistic piece, it is useful state the most interesting results in the beginning even if the details and analysis comes later.
3. Connecting sentences between different points helps the reader identify the transition in the thought process and also makes the paper more flowing. Getting feedback from people is essential.
4. Academic writing is supposed to be sharp. Simplifying the language and removing redundancies helps improve the clarity. If some point is central to the paper, it may be repeated for emphasis.
Michael Nielson has proposed six rules of rewriting which are useful to make one’s writing more powerful. Among them he advises using the strongest appropriate verb. He also discourages ‘nominalization’ which is to weaken verbs is by turning them into nouns. Rewriting can be a painstaking effort and it requires making each sentence and paragraph more direct, logical and accessible. The best suggestion, Neilson gives is to work hard on each sentence:
Academics are wont to ignore this rule, believing the reader should be willing to endure any pain for a sufficient payoff. Of course, academics aren’t paid per reader. Good bloggers and journalists know better.