RS_Argument__How much do I need to explain? Finding places to condense and expand

Academic writing, by its nature, involves explaining complicated concepts. A useful guiding question for revisions is how best to ensure your readers understand the concepts on which your argument depends in their full complexity. To this end, academic articles, dissertations, and books often rearticulate central concepts at different points of the argument. One valuable strategy to communicate complex concepts effectively is to introduce them multiple times at different levels of explanation or detail. This revision strategy concerns moving between condensed (summative) and expanded (dilatory) articulations of the same concept.

We can approach this issue using some of the same techniques for other paragraph-level edits. Rather than using color-coding to identify which idea certain passages are following, for instance, you might use it to identify types of passage:

  1. Identify a section that seems to be losing focus, going in multiple directions, or simply not reading as clearly as you would like it to.
  2. Color code according to functions that sentences or paragraphs are serving. Is a given passage expanding on the explanation a concept, or is it condensing the foregoing discussion, restating the concept in a succinct way?
  3. A meandering passage may be going overboard on expansion, and may need periodic interjections to condense and restate the central claims.
  4. Alternatively, a passage may be repeatedly introducing and explaining concepts in a dense fashion, and might need to be unpacked, moved, or broken out into a new section entirely.

Keep in mind that these issues may be evident at different scales. Condensation and expansion may happen within a single paragraph, throughout a section, or across an entire chapter.


Need help with the Commons? Visit our
help page
Send us a message