Common Mistakes in Theological Research #3: Its All in Your Head…

Common Mistakes in Theological Research #3: Its All in Your Head… December 5, 2008

The third post in this series focuses on the problem of written work that lacks the simplicity and clarity to communicate well to the intended audience. In a sense, the writer probably thought it all made sense because he or she has been thinking about this work for a long time. What is usually missing in such work is necessary statements that preview the argument, summarize it afterward, and offer lots of important linking phrases like ‘The reason why this is significant is because…’.
Often I will read a portion of a chapter and think ‘How did this actually contribute to the main argument?’ The reader should never have to think that.

Now, it may seem awkward, but putting in lots of reminders, restatements, and summaries is much more tolerable than having none.

How can you avoid this problem? Clearly and simply preview your argument and the flow of your chapters really well in your introduction. Begin each chapter with something like ‘In the last chapter we looked at…Now we will see how…’

At the end of each chapter write ‘Thus we have argued that…and the evidence for this has been…which leads us to our next chapter on…’

Again, to you (the writer of the thesis) this will seem redundant and dull and exhausting, but be reminded that most readers will not read the whole thing at once and will need reminders and refreshers.

After you have worked on your thesis for three (or more) years, the material is all in your head, but not in the readers’. You will need to cater to your audience to make your research accessible, understandable, and interesting.

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