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After some time of working on my research, I usually have a structured information of my results, which I can best describe in bullets/numbers. Unfortunately, this is not what academia expects. For example, I concluded my paper introduction with this paragraph:

We start by discussing the most relevant research papers. Then we discuss the composition rules we have selected and how to evaluate them. Then we discuss the optimisation method we use and camera search spaces. Finally, we discuss an example of rendering a well known film in our system and discuss the results.

If you carefully read my concluding paragraph, you will notice that it mentions six parts (research papers, composition rules, how to evaluate them, optimisation method, camera search spaces, an example). I found it hard to combine all these information (which is not uncommon in papers' introductions) in one paragraph, and I ended up repeating "then" twice, which reads very boring - at least for me.

What are the methods to avoid repetitions in general? What about my specific example?

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What's wrong with bullets here? –  John Smithers Feb 7 '11 at 15:39
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The problem with bullets is that it is too structured, and for some reasons it seems that readers don't like that! That's not my personal opinion, though, it is what I hear from many frequently. Personally, whenever I read a book, I get attracted to bullets and numberings, because I feel they are giving the important bit of information in the section. –  Promather Feb 7 '11 at 16:07
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6 Answers 6

It's useful to write as if speaking, then restructure for formality. That will give you the necessary verbosity.

In your particular case, it seems thinking about the points you want to make as different things makes you try to express them as individual sentences; if you mention a link between them or make a link clear, it helps.

Last, but not least, you can use different expressions with the same meaning.

You could have written, instead:

"We start by discussing the most relevant research papers, afterward discussing the composition rules we have selected and how to evaluate them. Once that's done, we discuss the optimization method we use and camera search spaces. Finally, we discuss an example of rendering a well known film in our system and discuss the results."

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After introducing the most relevant research papers we will look at the composition rules we have selected and how to evaluate them. Then we discuss the optimisation method we use and camera search spaces. Finally, we demonstrate the rendering of a well known film in our system by an example and discuss the results.

Synonyms are your friend. Not only "then" is your problem, you "discuss" a lot of things.

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Thanks for your note! I didn't the frequent use of "discuss". –  Promather Feb 7 '11 at 16:03
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I vociferously disagree here. If you mean the exact same thing, you should use the exact same word. John's changes suggest that the handling of composition rules is to be different from the handling of optimization (which is not, I take it, the truth). I'm up for bullets. –  Malvolio Feb 7 '11 at 22:50
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From Strunk & White's Elements of Style:

Express co-ordinate ideas in similar form.

This principle, that of parallel construction, requires that expressions of similar content and function should be outwardly similar. The likeness of form enables the reader to recognize more readily the likeness of content and function. Familiar instances from the Bible are the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the petitions of the Lord's Prayer.

Do not think that varying simple expressions makes a better writer. It can and will distract the reader. In your case, I would suggest making the list even more uniform:

We first discuss the most relevant research papers. We next discuss our selected composition rules and how to evaluation them. We then discuss our optimisation method and camera search spaces. We finally discuss the results of rendering a well-known film in our system.

Note the repetition:

  1. We first discuss...
  2. We next discuss...
  3. We then discuss...
  4. We finally discuss...

These phrases become almost transparent for the reader, putting the focus on what's being discussed.

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Good comment about repetition. –  Promather Feb 7 '11 at 16:05
    
Great point: "Do not think that varying simple expressions makes a better writer." Clear sign of a less-experienced writer. –  gmoore Feb 15 '11 at 14:00
    
While your answer has good information, it does not address the OP's question "...tricks to avoid repetition in writing". –  BoltBait Feb 20 '11 at 21:51
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One way to reduce the "discuss" duplication is to ask yourself: What are we trying to accomplish by discussing this? What effect are we trying to have on the reader?

Then, rather than looking for synonyms, look for words that more precisely express what you're trying to do.

Why discuss the optimization method? So that people understand it. You're explaining. So say "explain."

Why discuss an example of rendering a film? So that people can see how the optimization works in practice. You're demonstrating. So say "demonstrate."

I'm not as sure about your reasons for discussing other things. Why discuss other research papers? Why discuss composition rules? Why discuss the results of rendering the well known film?

But if you clarify what effect you are trying to create in the reader, you can likely find words that are more precise and energetic, while still fitting the tone of a scholarly paper.

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That's a very good point, thanks! –  Promather Feb 7 '11 at 21:10
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I find the repetitive use of the same verb in a paragraph to be jarring.

Some of the responses seem to suggest that to say anything other than discuss might confuse the audience into thinking that some topics will be discussed while others are simply mentioned.

My take on this paragraph would be to establish the discussion at the beginning, and then use terms of direction to show how the discussion will progress through each topic.

We will begin our discussion with the most relevant research papers. We then turn to our selected composition rules and how to evaluate them. Continuing forward is our optimization method and camera search spaces. We conclude with the results of rendering a well-known film into our system.

This is perhaps an extreme example, it would probably be okay to mention 'discuss' in the third or fourth sentence as a way to remind the audience that this is a continual discussion of all topics listed.

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Here is my rewording:

We start by discussing the most relevant research papers. Then, we talk about the composition rules we have selected and how to evaluate them. Next, we consider the optimization method we use and camera search spaces. Finally, we review an example of rendering a well known film in our system and talk about the results.

You wanted a trick, well here's mine:

I use Microsoft Word as my editor. When I right click on a word, such as 'discuss', I can choose synonyms from a popup list. Sometimes it is necessary to do this several times to find a good word.

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+1 point for Microsoft Word hint, though I don't usually use MSWord, as I moved to Linux. –  Promather Feb 17 '11 at 20:32
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