12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers

January 18, 2016
Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of patrisyu at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over and over again I see these phrases in research papers. Every single time I ask students to consider an alternative. Here are a dozen phrases to eliminate in your academic writing and why:

#1: I hope that…

#2:  I believe that…

#3: I feel that…

#4: In my opinion…

Research is not concerned with what we feel, believe or hope. It is also not concerned with our opinions. Research is about posing a substantive question that merits an in-depth investigation and  providing credible evidence to address that question. These phrases may work in reflection papers or journals, but less so in research writing. Omit these touchy-feely phrases and focus on the business of providing evidence to support your discussion.

#5: Clearly…

#6: As you can clearly see…

#7: As this clearly demonstrates…

This can come across as defensive. It may seem like you are implying the reader is an idiot if he or she do not agree with you. Even if you feel that way, refrain from letting the reader know, as it will undoubtedly annoy him or her.

#8: As stated previously…

#9: As I have already mentioned / pointed out/ stated…

#10: As already noted in a previous section of this paper…

These phrases can sound condescending. I have yet to see a case where these phrases (and the remainder of the sentence that follows) add anything useful to the discussion. Keep your writing precise and pithy. Avoid repeating yourself.

#11: The only conclusion is…

#12 The only logical conclusion is…

This can sound arrogant, defensive or both. The underlying message is that anyone who disagrees with you is an imbecile. It makes it sound like you flat out reject the possibility that there could possibly be any other conclusion, which is rarely (if ever) a good idea in research. (Remember the Copernican Revolution.)

Instead of using phrases like these that can make you sound arrogant or defensive (even when that is not your intention), focus instead on writing in a pragmatic and straightforward way that lets the evidence speak for itself.


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12 Phrases to Avoid in Your Academic Research Papers



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EDER 603.23 – Writing Educational Research

January 2, 2016

Sarah Elaine Eaton, speaker, presenter, keynote, technology, social media, Calgary, Canada, educator, education, professional developmentI am thrilled that I have the opportunity to teach one of my favourite courses again in the Winter semester. Even better, I already know many of the students who are enrolled and I welcome the opportunity to work with this academically strong group again.

Here’s a downloadable .pdf of the course outline:

EDER_603.23_L09_Eaton_W2016 (approved)

This term, all the instructors who will teach the course in the Winter semester worked to collaboratively design a common outline for all sections of the course. We will use a common approach to teaching, assignments and due dates.

The objective of the course is to engage students in thinking about publishing their work in a public format. Here is an example from a previous student of mine in this course who published her first refereed conference paper as a direct result of her work in this course:

Quinn, E. (2015). Designing a professional learning model to support creativity in teaching and learning. Paper presented at the IDEAS: Designing Responsive Pedagogy, Calgary, AB. Retrieved from: http://prism.ucalgary.ca/bitstream/1880/50852/3/IDEAS%202015%20FINAL.pdf

I hope that this example inspires students in the Winter semester to seek publication of their own research in a credible (e.g. peer reviewed) format. Now is an exciting time for graduate students who want to work towards sharing work in a published format. There are more opportunities than ever before for graduate students to learn what it takes to have their work published in conference proceedings or journals.

Here’s a quick link so you can send this post to a friend: EDER 603.23 – Writing Educational Research – http://wp.me/pNAh3-1Jy


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