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I am writing my phd dissertation in a technical field and I have a question. When in the same chapter, I finish a section and want to connect it with the next section I am not sure what is better. Lets see an example:

Chapter: "Popular Vehicles"

....

Section: "Bus"

A bus was very popular and cheap... Everybody loved it! However, new production techniques, robotics, whatever and an economic revolution allowed every one to own a car.

Section: "Car"

A car offers convenient transportation...

Indeed, I don't like to finish the first section without a rational ending by just saying "and then buses were replaced by cars" and finish the section. However, I am afraid I am losing relevant information regarding the "Car" which should go in that section, and I don't want to repeat that information in the next section. If you are reading everything it should be okay, but if you just open the book, go to the section "Car" because you care only about it and read that part, you have missed important information regarding the birth of cars!

In short, I am doubting whether a sentence should be a conclusion of a section, or an introduction of the next. So, what would you think is the best approach to technical writing?

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The information about buses being replaced by cars logically makes sense in both sections of the paper. There's nothing wrong with having a sentence or two overlap between the sections. If it gets to be more than that, you might want to consider adding even more details and have a separate section that discusses the transition.

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Definitely a helpful answer, I am afraid I don't have enough reputation to up-vote as well! –  gpierris Nov 9 '12 at 14:51

Nope. Sections do not refer directly to the next section, unless there is a specific reason, such as a cross-reference. What you need is an overview topic/section ABOVE these where you describe the contents of the sub-sections.

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It depends on the context. In the example in this question, cars are being presented as connected to buses somehow, so it makes sense to have this kind of segue. However, in a chapter with a bunch of stand-alone sections, it doesn't. If the same chapter is talking about buses, cars, trains, planes, and the Enterprise's transporter, and you aren't laying out connections among all of these, a reader would not expect to see you talking about these outside of their own sections.

It depends on the format. In a dissertation your readers are likely to be reading text from beginning to end (maybe skipping parts). If, instead, your work is likely to be broken up into chunks -- individual web pages, blocks of context-sensititve help in an application, or the like -- then you cannot rely on any reader context beyond the current section. The "cars" section needs to either stand on its own or have an explicit cross-reference to the "buses" section, and vice-versa. It is important to consider how your reader will use your document.

(I realize that the question asks about a dissertation, but it is also tagged technical-writing, which has broader considerations.)

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