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Paragraph doesn't read well?

Try taking the key words of each sentence and organise them into a tree diagram. Is the paragraph logically ordered?

Sentence doesn't read well?

Is the problem that it doesn't link well to the surrounding sentences? Check sentence linking by reading out loud. Try taking the key words and making sure that you are saying what you want to say about them.

Sounds too abstract?

See if you are overusing abstract nouns and underusing their verbal equivalents (e.g. growth/ grow, production/ produce, identification/ identify); this can have the effect of removing the dynamism from your text:

"Temperatures showed an increase during the day." compared to

"Temperatures increased during the day."

"Weights of the specimens were taken." compared to

"The specimens were weighed."

Try to choose the most appropriate and interesting verbs (verbs such as be, have, get are fairly content-free, i.e. they don't do enough work. Use remains, develops, arises).

'Filler' verbs may not be needed at all: "we studied" is better than "we conducted a study"; "pressure improved" is better than "an improvement in pressure occurred".

Stop and ask yourself 'What do I really want to say?'

Chapters/sections too long?

Check your paragraphs. Your reader should be able to glance at the first sentence of each paragraph in a section or chapter and this should constitute the framework of your logical argument. Have you elaborated these points more than is necessary?

Remove unnecessary words, clauses or sentences. Check if you are including more examples or quotations than are necessary to make your point. Replace lengthy descriptions with tables or figures.

Chapters/sections too short?

Say to yourself, 'the point I want to get across here is...'; then, 'the specifics of this point are...'. At this point, you can try asking who, what, when, where, why, and how: you are guaranteed to come up with more useful things to say. (This can also help with writer's block).

Check that you have introduced and concluded each chapter sufficiently. Make sure you have explained your methodology adequately. See if there are more references to include. Does all the Appendix material belong there?

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