Ivory Tower Writing #11: Writing a conclusive conclusion

This post covers some practices on how to write a conclusion that’s conclusive.

At this point, we’re almost done with the paper. You’ve fleshed out your ideas in paragraph after paragraph and you don’t have anything more to say. But wait, there’s still one part left: the conclusion.

Cue the groans.

“But I’ve already made my point! Why do I have to write more?”

Well, as I’ve said before, academic writing is a circular process. Like it or not, you have to write a conclusion. So, let’s get down to business.

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Ivory Tower Writing #8: Knowing your enemy – types of papers and what to expect

This post discusses some pointers in distinguishing the different types of papers that you may encounter during your academic life.

At this point, you have some of the basics of structure covered. Before discussing more basics, I think now’s a good time to understand the types of papers you may encounter when you’re in university.

Some general advice first. You ought to always pay attention to the wording of your research question (as I’ve mentioned in post #4), as this determines the general character of your paper. This also applies to questions your professor gives you. If they provide you with a research question, then you actually have your work cut out for you. You may also have to do some work, especially if all they give you is a statement like “Robotics will change the nature of war. Discuss.”

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Ivory Tower Writing #6: Writing a literature review

This post introduces the art of writing a literature review.

Ah, the literature review. The two words that will surely break the spirit of grad students or anyone assembling a book-length argument of why we should use concordance theory as a new paradigm for civil-military relations. It is that section that you will always be revisiting and revising so it remains coherent and up-to-date.

In this post, I’ll walk you through the basics of a literature review, starting with whether you really need one, what it is, and how to write it.

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Ivory Tower Writing #5: Deciding your methods

This post provides an introduction to the issue of choosing your methods in research.

Once you have decided on a research question, you’re now likely going to start choosing what methods to apply in your research.

Depending on your field of study, your go-to methods will likely be either quantitative or qualitative. Some may say that quantitative methods are better than qualitative methods. Note that neither method is “better” than others absolutely. Imagine trying to cut a steak using a bread knife. Theoretically, you could do it, but then it’ll take a goddamn long time and you’re not doing justice to a prime cut of meat. Instead of insisting on using a bread knife, go buy a proper steak knife. That analogy illustrates the issue of methods: none are absolutely better, they just have different utility depending on what you’re trying to cut. As King, Keohane, and Verba wrote in Designing Social Inquiry (1994):

“All good research can be understood—indeed, is best understood—to derive from the same underlying logic of inference.”

Besides, choosing between qualitative or quantitative isn’t even half the battle.

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Ivory Tower Writing #4: Formulating the research question

This post addresses the problem of the research question and how one may formulate it.

Ah, the research question. Perhaps one of the most dreadful parts of the pre-writing phase, yet the most important. You see, the research question is essentially your idea—which I assume you already have at this point—given physical form. Without it, your research will likely drag you all over the place, making you feel even more lost.

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Ivory Tower Writing #2: The writing process

This post covers the basics of the writing process, from pre-writing, writing, and post-writing.

Like most art forms, writing is a process. Like, a really long process and not to mention agonizing. If this deters you, then perhaps you want to reconsider your life choices. Then again, you need the degree so bad, either to make your parents happy or to get that job you want but will never get.

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