How to Write a Sophisticated, Dynamic Scholarly Argument

It is incumbent upon early-career academics to distinguish their research as mature scholarship, not student work. So as an editor who often works with junior faculty and recent PhDs, I’m always on the lookout for hallmarks of amateur writing that scholars can identify and excise.

Perhaps most academics can name some of the tics that unfortunately characterize graduate-student writing: overqualification, hedging, extensive literature review, and a high ratio of quotation to original material are just a few.

Think of yourself as a writer

Authors need to understand the process by which their manuscript will be evaluated and take that into account when they submit. If a smart recent college graduate can’t decode what your book is about, you’re in trouble.

When I graduated from college I hoped to land a job working on a dude ranch in Wyoming. Instead, I fell into a career in scholarly publishing, acquiring books for Oxford University Presses. I realize now that as an editor I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to the prose. I cared more about the ideas than about how well they were expressed, at least that’s what I told myself. It wasn’t true.