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.

Don’t use a scalpel to peel an apple

One of my favorite people was the legendary football coach, Paul “Bear” Bryant. One event stands out. Coach Bryant had won more games than had any other coach, and his institution, The University of Alabama, had won more national championships than any other institution. A rookie player had made a great touchdown and had let everyone know it by spiking the ball. The Bear calmly called him over to the bench and said, “Son, don’t act like this is the only time you have ever made a great play.”