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A Few Tips On Paper-Writing For Students Of Phonology

 

  • Know your audience. You are not writing for yourself, nor are you writing for your professor. You are writing for specialists in your area who potentially know nothing of your data or your proposals.
  • You’re writing a research paper, not a mystery novel. Your introduction should state the issues to be explored. The introduction should also clearly and plainly state your conclusion.
  • You’re doing science, not history. Don’t provide your personal history with respect to the project. Also, write in the present tense.
  • Don’t let your labor show. You may have slaved over your data in order to discover the patterns. This is immaterial to your readers. Present your patterns without fanfare.
  • Get the patterns out there fast . Data should be presented in a way that clearly brings out the patterns you have found. Schematics, timelines (if relevant), and summaries should be provided at any opportune juncture.
  • Provide clear signposts. Section headings should directly address the content of the section, both in terms of data and argumentation. For example, not "Data X", but "Data X show Y".
  • Repetition is a good thing. At the beginning of a section, remind your readers where we have been, and why we are now looking at such and such.
  • Internal consistency is necessary, but not sufficient. Appeals to phonology-external facts about the world are essential in order to make your proposals fly.
  • No page-flipping. If data are discussed again, remind your readers of the relevant patterns. Don't make them flip pages.
  • KATAM: keep acronyms to a minimum. If your ideas become sufficiently popular in the field, acronyms will be devised by others. In the meantime, use complete words to characterize your ideas.
  • Your scholarship is only as good as your ability to communicate your ideas to others.

 

And another thing...

  • Cite peer-reviewed sources. Conference proceedings, books, and especially peer-reviewed journal papers are okay to cite; unpublished manuscripts should be avoided.
  • Whenever possible, avoid sex-specified pronouns ("he"/"she", "him"/"her", and especially "s/he"); use the plural ("they"/"them"); not "The child acquires her grammar", but "Children acquire their grammar".
  • Always use IPA. You may supply traditional transcription conventions and/or standardized orthography, but only as an accompaniment to IPA, never as an alternative. You may enclose transcriptions in square brackets ([abc]), but never virgules (/abc/).
  • In a single-authored work, if you must refer to yourself, use “I”, never “we”; only use “we” if you are referring to both yourself and the reader. So, in a single-authored work, “In this section we see…” is acceptable, but “In this section we show…” is unacceptable.
  • "Smith 1984" refers to a work published in 1984, by Smith ; "Smith (1984)" refers to a person, Smith, who published a work in 1984. Consequently, "...in Smith (1984)..." makes no sense.
  • Don't use christocentric terms like "B.C." and "A.D"; avoid the crypto-Christian "B.C.E." and "C.E." as well. Instead, use "years ago", as in "3000 years ago", or "B.P." (before present), as in "3000 B.P."
  • "Loan" is a noun; "Lend" is a verb.
  • "Optimal" is not an adjective of degree. Consequently, "more optimal" or "less optimal" makes no sense.
  • "Rise" is intransitive ("raise" is transitive). Thus, for example, "low vowels rise", not "low vowels raise".

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